‘Jail ex-American soldier nabbed with gun at RGM Airport’

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Court Hammer

BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
THE State yesterday said an ex-American soldier, who was nabbed at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport intending to board a flight to Victoria Falls with a loaded pistol, should be jailed for 20 years.

Retired first class sergeant Ronald Leon Johnson faces two counts of carrying a firearm and ammunition in Zimbabwe without a firearm certificate in terms of the Firearms Act and violating the Civil Aviation (Security) Regulations Act.

Johnson appeared before magistrate Stanford Mambanje and pleaded guilty to the charges in mitigation.

He was represented by Thomas Nyakunika.

The State said Johnson had refused to give up his iPhone password to verify the people he was communicating with in Zimbabwe.

Prosecutor Wisper Mabhaudhi also told Mambanje that Johnson’s visit was suspicious, having served in various hotspots in his 25 years of service in the United States army.

“He has been sent on missions in different countries around the world. He went to South Korea from 1986 to 1987, in Iraq during the Gulf War in 1991. He was at one time based in Germany from 1992 to 1994. He also served in Saudi Arabia in 2004. He served in a peacekeeping mission in Sudan. In summary, he is a military man with experience in hotspots throughout the world,” Mabhaudhi said.

“The accused had an iPhone which was functioning. The police wanted to have access to it, but the accused person refused with the password, indicating that he has a business contract with the United States government, which information he wanted to protect.”

Nyakunika told the court that his client did not know that carrying a gun in Zimbabwe was illegal.

“He is a holder of a valid firearm licence. The firearm was issued on March 5, 2017 and will expire on March 5, 2022. That permit enables the accused to move around in America. He passed through several airports,” he said.

Mambanje postponed the matter to today for sentence.

Allegations are that on February 5, Johnson entered Zimbabwe and was issued with a 30-holiday visa expiring on March 5, 2022.

He was later caught at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport with a loaded pistol intending to board fastjet Airline Flight Number 6J1WRA to Victoria Falls.

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