Ithaca, N.Y. — A Pennsylvania woman pleaded guilty this week to charges of possession and sale of the stolen firearm that was later used to shoot Ithaca police Officer Anthony Augustine in 2012, according to federal court records.
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Ciera Leann Bennett, 23, admitted that she stole a .38 caliber revolver from her mother and then sold it in the City of Elmira on April 26, 2012 for drug money, records show.
Later that year, the same gun was used in the shooting of Officer Augustine. Jamel Booker was later arrested and is currently serving a 25-year-long prison sentence for the shooting. Augustine suffered a stroke but survived.
How authorities found the gun
The tracing of the gun to Bennett began during a repossession of a couch by a Rent-a-Center employee, court records show.
On December 31, 2012, Ithaca police interviewed a man named Michael Moseley. During that interview, Moseley told police that he had found a handgun while he was moving a couch for Rent-A-Center.
Moseley said that he heard rattling inside the couch as he was taking it to the dumpster at Rent-A-Center. Mosley soon discovered that, on the underside of the couch, there was a tear in the fabric.
Inside, Moseley found a black Colt Detective .38 Special revolver, federal court documents say. The gun contained 5 live rounds, along with a spent shell casing.
Moseley took the gun home and decided to report the finding of the handgun after his manager said police began asking about a couch rented to Kimberly Harden, Jamel Booker’s girlfriend at the time of the shooting, federal court documents say. (Harden was later indicted on charges of hindering prosecution in the first degree of the investigation into the Augustine shooting.)
When police recovered the weapon from Moseley’s residence, they discovered that the serial number matched that of a gun reported stolen from Peggy Bennett around April 26, 2012.
Peggy Bennett is Ciera Bennett’s mother. Ciera Bennett’s recent plea to two counts of the indictment comes “without the benefit of a plea agreement,” records show.
Sentencing has been scheduled for March 19, 2015.