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Man arrested for firearms near LA Pride Festival pleads not guilty

FILE PHOTO - James Howell is shown in this booking photo from the Santa Monica Police Department after he was arrested with guns and explosives in his car in Santa Monica, California, U.S. June 12, 2016. Santa Monica Police Department/Handout via Reuters/File Photo
Photo courtesy of Santa Monica Police Department

SANTA MONICA, CA – The man who was arrested last year near the LA Pride Festival for possession of firearms and potentially explosive chemicals has pleaded not guilty to weapons charges.

According to court documents, James Wesley Howell of Indiana entered his plea on Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court to unlawful possession of an assault weapon, importing large firearms magazines, possession of a destructive device, and carrying a loaded gun in a car. He was also responsible for five-gallons of chemicals that could have been utilized in the making of an explosive device.

Howell had been on his way to the gay pride parade on June 12, 2016 when police responded to a call about a suspicious car and found him in a white Acura sedan with the weapons. Although Omar Mateen had just been arrested hours before for the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida at a gay nightclub, police said they found no connection between the two incidents.

If convicted, Howell faces a sentence of more than nine years in prison and has been in jail. He is due to be back in court on April 27.

Howell already has a criminal record, as he was under investigation for molesting a 12-year-old child in Indiana last year. After learning he was under investigation, Howell appeared to have left for California. A day after he was charged with weapons offenses in California, Indiana authorities brought the child molestation charge against him.

Authorities plan to have Howell sent back to Indiana to face the charge after his criminal case in California is handled.


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