Former APD SWAT officer can never own a gun

"I'm a firearms instructor," Brad Ahrensfield said. "This is a burden I'm going to have to carry"

By Jeff Proctor
Albuquerque Journal

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Former APD officer Brad Ahrensfield said Monday he was "appreciative of the leniency" of his sentence, which sends him to prison for six months and a day.

But in the next breath, the longtime SWAT officer and APD academy instructor acknowledged that his Dec. 20 conviction for obstruction of justice will be "hugely damaging" to his ability to make a living.

That's because the conditions U.S. District Judge James Parker imposed at Monday's sentencing included a lifetime prohibition on Ahrensfield ever being a police officer again - or even owning a gun.

"I'm a firearms instructor," he said. "This is a burden I'm going to have to carry for the rest of my life."

Ahrensfield is accused of tipping off a friend about a 2009 investigation into allegations of narcotics and stolen merchandise trafficking out of the friend's business.

Ahrensfield could have been sentenced to nearly four years under U.S. sentencing guidelines.

In addition to the six months behind bars, Parker sentenced Ahrensfield to six months of electronically monitored house arrest and three years of supervised probation.

The U.S. probation department had recommended 15 months incarceration and two years' probation.

Federal prosecutors also had sought a stiffer penalty.

"What message is this court sending to the 1,100 APD officers?" Assistant U.S. Attorney Tera Neda asked Parker.

A local and federal law enforcement task force began investigating The Car Shop, where Ahrensfield's son worked, in September 2009 after getting tips that drugs and stolen goods were being trafficked out of the shop. A confidential informant bought drugs from one of the shop's mechanics on three occasions, according to authorities.

Ahrensfield was not involved in the investigation, but he learned about it from a fellow officer and told Shawn Bryan, the shop's owner, about it.

Bryan, a close friend of Ahrensfield's, has not been charged with any crime.

Authorities said Ahrensfield, who was with APD for 15 years, derailed the investigation, which did not result in any charges.

It took two trials and nearly two years to arrive at Monday's sentencing.

In April 2010, Ahrensfield was acquitted of lying to the FBI, but the jury could not reach a verdict on the obstruction of justice charge.

In December, the second trial ended with a conviction on that charge.

Parker's courtroom was packed Monday: More than 75 people turned out to support Ahrensfield, including at least one retired APD sergeant and Ahrensfield's girlfriend, who wiped tears from her eyes when she learned her boyfriend would be going to prison.

Sitting on the other side of the courtroom were officers and agents from numerous law en forcement agencies, including some who worked on the criminal and APD Internal Affairs cases against Ahrensfield.

They watched Parker say that Ahrensfield had "perjured himself" during both trials and that a "preponderance of the evidence" showed that he had "been untruthful" with FBI agents who questioned him about leaking details of the Car Shop investigation.

Ahrensfield's attorney, Jason Bowles, pointed out that his client had been acquitted of lying to the FBI and asked Parker to take that jury's verdict into consideration when factoring a sentence.

Parker said he believed the jury's decision was based largely on Bowles' "excellent lawyer skills." During the first trial, Bowles had played up the fact that the FBI didn't record its interview with Ahrensfield.

The judge said he also considered scores of letters sent to him on Ahrensfield's behalf - many of them identical but bearing different signatures - and the former officer's lack of criminal history.

Bowles plans to appeal Ahrensfield's conviction to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

It's unclear where Ahrensfield will serve his prison time. After a request from Bowles, Parker agreed to recommend a medium-security facility in Virginia near where Ahrensfield's mother lives.

He has 60 days to turn himself in to the U.S. Marshals Service, but that time frame may change because the lawyers still have to file briefs on whether the pending appeal should affect when Ahrensfield gets locked up.

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Yarbrough said he respected Parker's sentence for Ahrensfield.

"The important thing is that he is now a convicted felon, and he will never again be a police officer," he said. "He will never again be in a position to undermine our justice system by abusing his position of trust to help the bad guys he was sworn to protect the citizens from."

Copyright 2011 Albuquerque Journal

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