Wednesday January 2, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- A 27-year-old city man who was set to plead guilty to gun charges on Wednesday in Berkshire Superior Court had a last-minute change of heart and will now be heading to trial in March.

The Berkshire District Attorney's Office says it has Sergio M. Ponce of Memorial Drive on video and audio tape selling a stolen semi-automatic rifle to a police informant in November 2011.

Ponce is accused of selling a Russian-made SKS-45 semiautomatic rifle stuffed into a guitar case and 70 rounds of ammunition to an informant for $500 on Nov. 8, 2011.

The weapon had been stolen from a storage facility in Stephentown, N.Y., one of about 15 weapons taken in an August 2011 heist, according to law enforcement officials.

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms determined the rifle had originally been owned by a New York man but had been transferred to someone else in 2007 and eventually ended up in the storage facility.

Ponce was arrested in May by the Pittsfield Police during a traffic stop on a city street.

The sticking point at Wednesday's court appearance, according to lawyers in the case, was where and how long Ponce would be spending time behind bars.

Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Gregory Barry told the court his office was asking for between 2 1/2 and three years in state prison. Ponce's attorney, David Pixley, was seeking a one year Berkshire County Jail & House of Correction sentence and probation for his client.


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Judge Daniel A. Ford ordered the case placed on the March trial list. Barry said the prosecution has "a strong case" against Ponce.

Ponce has pleaded not guilty to four charges: improper sale of a firearm, illegal ownership of a firearm, possession of ammunition without a firearm identification card, and receiving stolen property over $250.

He remains free on $500 bail.

The case was investigated by the Berkshire County Drug Task Force.