Firearms case against 3rd trooper dismissed Rifles at firing range touched off charges Associated Press EAST ST. LOUIS -- The U.S. government has dropped charges against the last of three Illinois State Police officers who had been accused of illegally having machine guns. James Crowe, a federal prosecutor, on Tuesday dropped a felony charge that Special Agent John Yard of Collinsville illegally possessed a machine gun. In exchange, 37-year-old Yard accepted responsibility and will do 30 hours of community service. Charges against Illinois State Police Sgt. James Vest, 40, of O'Fallon and Senior Master Trooper Greg Mugge, 52, of Jerseyville already had been dismissed. A fourth defendant, Harold Griffiths of Spaulding, Ill., is scheduled for trial in August on related federal charges. But Crowe told the judge Tuesday "there have been communications" between both sides, signaling charges against Griffiths also soon may be addressed. The three troopers and Griffiths were indicted in January 2006 after officers were seen with automatic AR-15 and M-4 rifles the year before at a Greenville federal prison's firing range. There was no claim any of the defendants used the weapons in any crimes. Yard told investigators that he had gotten an AR-15 from Griffiths, according to court documents. Griffiths, 70, told authorities he was unaware the AR-15 was fully automatic when he bought it, adding that he had been a California reserve officer for 10 years and bought many of the guns he owns during that time. Griffiths said he offered an AR-15 to Yard, a friend, who wanted "a more powerful weapon in today's environment." The prosecution of the case collapsed after Vest argued that the federal law banning unlicensed possession has an exception for law enforcers. The government countered that the exception applies to a department, not to individual officers. A federal judge threw out the case against Vest last August, ruling the federal law "unconstitutionally vague." Mugge pleaded guilty last July to a charge of possessing an unregistered, fully-automatic AR-15. But that officer later successfully asked a judge to throw out the case. Mugge has retired. Yard and Vest were relieved of duty with pay pending an administrative review, a State Police spokesman has said. In court Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Michael Reagan offered to write Yard a letter of support. When Reagan asked if he had his job back, the trooper replied, "I believe so." Afterward, Yard's lawyer, Bill Lucco, called the outcome "a good ending to a strange and bizarre journey." ------------- Of course if this was you or me we'd be doing 10 in club fed.