Courtroom stunned by liberal judge’s harsh sentence for Delaware gun rights advocate
U.S. District Judge Gregory M. Sleet shocked a Delaware courtroom on Wednesday when he sentenced three-time state senate candidate, outspoken Second Amendment advocate, and Republican official Matthew Opaliski to a year in federal prison for selling four guns without a dealer’s license — despite prosecutors’ request for probation.
Opaliski, a husband and father of four, was indicted in February 2015 on counts of dealing firearms without a license and unlawful transfer of firearms. The guns involved were two handguns, and two AM-15 5.56-caliber semiautomatic rifles, all of which were owned legally. Although Opaliski maintained that he hadn’t believed he was breaking the law, he resigned from his leadership position in the local Republican Party shortly thereafter, and eventually chose to plead guilty in anticipation of a probation sentence, the punishment recommended by prosecutors.
But the judge seemed to be determined to make an example of the defendant. Sleet, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1998, rejected the prosecution’s recommendation and linked the sales to nationwide gun violence. He went on to suggest that buyers could have used them to commit violent crimes, saying, “He had to at least wonder about the qualities of the person he was selling to.” Sleet sentenced Opaliski to serve one year and one day in federal prison, followed by three years of probation and 100 hours of community service.
Though Opaliski will be eligible for early release, he will have a permanent criminal record as a convicted felon, and will no longer be able to vote or own a firearm.
The Delaware Association for Gun Rights called the stunning sentence an “outrageous, unjust ruling following the execution of an unlawful provision.”