Ex-SEAL sentenced to prison for arms trafficking

The conduct of a Navy SEAL who led an arms trafficking conspiracy “eclipsed his military accomplishments,” a federal prosecutor argued Tuesday in Las Vegas.

While the government appreciates Nicholas Bickle’s service to his country, Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip Smith Jr. said, “the fact remains that the defendant pretty much betrayed all that his military service represented.”

Smith made the statements while successfully persuading Senior U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt to impose a prison sentence of nearly 18 years. Both the prosecutor and the judge objected to attempts by the defendant’s supporters to characterize him as a war hero.

Hunt said he thinks Bickle, 34, became a SEAL because “it provided him with some bravado.”

“I think he felt as a Navy SEAL he was above the law,” the judge later added.

Bickle, then a petty officer first class, was convicted in October of 13 of the 15 counts he faced in the case.

During the trial, prosecutors identified Bickle as the ringleader of a conspiracy to deal unlawfully in firearms. They accused him of bringing machine guns and other weapons into the country from Iraq for his own profit.

Hunt noted that Bickle wore his Navy uniform throughout the three-week trial. The judge offered his opinion that Bickle did so in an effort to impress and influence the jury.

“The jury was not impressed with that,” the judge remarked.

In marked contrast to his appearance during the trial, Bickle came to court Tuesday wearing bright yellow clothing labeled “detainee.” His wavy, once-trim hair had grown longer and was slicked back.

Bickle was given an “other than honorable” discharge from the Navy in December, when Hunt ordered him to surrender to the U.S. Marshals Service. The defendant, who previously lived in San Diego, has been held at a detention facility in Pahrump for nearly seven months.

“Bickle’s behavior was not reflective of the caliber of men within the Navy Special Warfare community,” according to a statement issued Tuesday by Lt. Ben Tisdale, spokesman for Naval Special Warfare Group One in Coronado, Calif. “On any given day, Navy SEALs are deployed throughout the world, serving with honor and integrity on and off the battlefield.”

Reno attorney John Arrascada, who began representing Bickle after the trial, said he plans to appeal the convictions and the sentence.

“We have respect for the judge’s decision but disagree with the duration of the sentence based on Mr. Bickle’s service to our country and his true character,” the lawyer said.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Arrascada argued for a five-year prison term. Reasons he gave for requesting the decreased penalty included:

■ Bickle had a reduced mental capacity at the time of the crimes because he suffered from chronic post-traumatic stress disorder.

■ Bickle’s misconduct constituted “aberrant” behavior.

Arrascada said Bickle participated in more than 300 live combat missions.

“We’re talking about close, hand-to-hand combat,” the lawyer explained.

He argued that post-traumatic stress disorder can affect judgment and may help explain “why Mr. Bickle came back as a changed man.”

Hunt said he commends Bickle for his military service, but added, “I have never met anyone who was actually engaged in combat who wasn’t changed.”

“None of those changes justify committing crimes,” the judge said.

The investigation that led to criminal charges against Bickle began in June 2010 when an informant told authorities that Las Vegas resident Omar Aguirre, a felon, was involved in arms trafficking. About two months later, after an undercover detective had bought machine guns from Aguirre, investigators confronted the suspect and persuaded him to cooperate in the investigation.

Aguirre and two other men later accepted plea bargains and admitted selling weapons for Bickle, the only military member charged in the case.

Hunt sentenced Aguirre in October to five years in prison.

Colorado resident Richard Paul, Bickle’s longtime friend, pleaded guilty and testified against Bickle during the trial. Las Vegas resident Andrew Kaufman, the other defendant who pleaded guilty, cooperated with authorities but was not called to testify.

Hunt is scheduled to sentence both Paul and Kaufman today .

Among the government witnesses who testified during Bickle’s trial was filmmaker Peter Berg, who said Bickle gave him an AK-47 as a “trophy weapon” after the pair developed a friendship in Iraq, where Bickle worked as an ordnance representative.

Berg said he was embedded with SEAL Team Five for nearly a month in March 2009 while preparing to make his upcoming movie “Lone Survivor,” based on the book by Marcus Luttrell. Embedded journalists typically live with military units while covering armed conflicts.

The Los Angeles filmmaker credited Bickle with saving his life and the lives of others in Iraq.

Berg said Bickle gave him the AK-47 at a San Diego hotel in June 2009.

The witness said he took the weapon to his house and kept it in a safe in his garage until December 2009, when prop master Doug Fox destroyed it for him.

Bickle, who had a role in the 2011 movie “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” was arrested in November 2010 in San Diego. He did not testify during his trial.

The defendant spoke only briefly at his sentencing hearing, telling Hunt, “I just hope and pray that the court affords me the ability to start over.”

Prosecutors introduced 45 firearms into evidence during the trial. Hunt recalled on Tuesday that his courtroom “looked like a veritable armory.”

Bickle smuggled machine guns into the United States after his first deployment to Iraq in 2007 and again after his second deployment in 2009, prosecutors contend.

Smith argued that Bickle then “in­discriminately” sold them without concern for how they would be used.

“These weapons can be used to inflict mass casualties,” the prosecutor said.

The defendant was convicted of conspiracy, dealing in firearms without a license, four counts of unlawful possession and transfer of machine guns, five counts of unlawful possession and sale of stolen firearms, receiving and retaining property of the United States, and distributing explosives to a nonlicensee.

Several of Bickle’s relatives, including his parents, came to court Tuesday to show their support for him.

Bickle’s parents, Cliff and Barbara, declined to comment after the hearing. They live in Pennsylvania.

At the defendant’s request, Hunt recommended that Bickle be assigned to a prison in Pennsylvania.

Thomas Chittum III, resident agent in charge of the Las Vegas office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, also attended the hearing.

“It seemed clear that the court carefully considered the seriousness of the offenses,” Chittum said.

He said the sentence Hunt imposed – 210 months – will serve as a deterrent to anyone who might consider committing similar crimes.

The judge found that Bickle had abused his position of trust, Chittum said, and now Bickle “has been held accountable for his crimes.”

“I’m glad it was us buying these guns and not the criminals they thought they were selling them to,” Chittum added.

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710.

Henderson police bodycam footage of officer-involved shooting
Henderson police released body-worn camera footage of an officer-involved shooting in a grocery store parking lot at 2667 Windmill Parkway on Aug. 12, 2018. (Henderson Police Department)
Bicyclist suffers major head trauma in hit-and-run
A bicyclist was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after a Thursday morning hit-and-run crash near the school formerly known as Agassi Prep. Police said the bicyclist was hit by a white SUV, which fled the scene. The injured man suffered multiple injuries including major head trauma. As of 9 a.m., Lake Mead remained closed between Martin Luther King and Revere Street while police investigate.
Las Vegas artist Dave Dave dies at 42
Dave Dave talks about his art and his life in 2016. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dave Dave, whose dad set him on fire in 1983, dies
Dave Dave, a respected Las Vegas artist who was badly scarred as a boy when his father tried to burn him to death in Southern California, died at Sunrise Hospital on July 15. He was 42. When he was 6, Dave's father tried to kill him by setting him on fire. He was given a sleeping pill and his bed at a Buena Park, California, motel was doused with kerosene. “I remembered being in a lot of pain,” Dave told the Review-Journal in 2016. “When stuff happens to you at that young of an age, you tend to block it out, but I remember the pain was excruciating.” Dave, who was born David Rothenberg, became close friends with Michael Jackson, who met him after the attack, which burned more than 90 percent of his body. “I wanted to meet him, and he wanted to meet me, and that just turned into a lifelong relationship that never ended,” Dave said. “It was amazing being friends with Michael Jackson. He was an amazing person.” Dave attended ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California, and collaborated with various artists around Las Vegas, eventually selling his art to private collectors. Despite his challenges, he continued to live, thrive and create. Dave Dave
Homicide detectives investigate woman's death
Las Vegas police were called to Tahiti Village Resort early Wednesday after calls that someone had been shot. Police found a woman’s body between a parking garage and boiler room on the resort's property. A guest first reported hearing gunfire. There are no witnesses, but police will examine surveillance videos and look for clues. The woman was not identified, but a purse was found near the body. She did not appear to be a guest at the resort.
LVMPD Discusses Ross Dress for Less Shooting
LVMPD Assistant Sheriff Charles Hank discussed the 15th officer-involved shooting of the year at a press conference at Metro headquarters on Tuesday, Aug. 14. The active-shooter incident took place at the Ross Dress for Less store at the 4000 block Blue Diamond Road in the south Las Vegas Valley. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Metro Asst. Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Aug. 8 officer-involved shooting
Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman met with media Monday to discuss the details of the 14th officer-involved shooting of the year. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County School Board president Deanna Wright on travel expenses
Clark County School Board President Deanna Wright says she followed proper expense protocol in trip to Florida last year.
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program where community and business leaders joined to welcome students back with an inspirational welcome. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Shooting leaves 1 dead in southeast valley
A man was found fatally shot in the doorway of a squatter apartment after an argument ended in gunfire on Sunday night. Officers responded about 10:30 p.m. to the Silver Pines apartments and discovered the man in a breezeway in one of the buildings. The wounded man died at the scene, despite the efforts of another person, who tried to administer medical aid. Witnesses saw a man and a woman flee the scene, but were unable to give police a clear description.
North Las Vegas unveils new school crosswalk
North Las Vegas councilman Isaac Barron talks about the new school crosswalk in front of CP Squires Elementary School Monday, August 6, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
LVMPD Briefing on OIS #13
Assistant Sheriff Tim Kelly held a press conference to discuss details of the 13th officer-involved-shoot for the department in 2018. Video shows the moments before the suspect was shot. The shooting, which has been edited out, occurred as the suspect lunged at an officer outside the apartment. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sedan and semitrailer collide in south Las Vegas
An early Wednesday morning crash has left one person in critical condition. A sedan and semitrailer collided around 4 a.m. at the corner of Spencer Street and Serene Avenue. Police do not believe impairment is a factor in the crash. Spencer has been blocked off north of Serene while police continue their investigation.
Cybersecurity Professionals Flock to Las Vegas for Black Hat
Black Hat USA, the largest annual cybersecurity conference, is expecting a record 17,000 attendees during its six-day run at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center this week. One thing attendees have in mind is making sure they don't get hacked while they're there. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police chase ends with suspects captured in east Las Vegas
An early Tuesday morning chase ended with a car crash in an east Las Vegas neighborhood. Police were pursuing the vehicle, which they say was involved in robberies in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, when the driver crashed at Owens and Statz Street. A man was taken into custody. A woman was ejected from a vehicle and taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The intersection at Mojave Road and Owens Avenue was shut down while police officers searched for the suspect and investigated. The intersection will remain closed for most of the morning.
Record number participate in Touro University Nevada White Coat Ceremony
Three hundred sixty-five medical students received their white coats during the Touro University Nevada White Coat Ceremony at the M Resort in Henderson Monday. The ceremony was developed to honor students in osteopathic medicine, physician assistant studies, nursing, occupational therapy and physical therapy as they accept the professional responsibilities inherent in their relationship with patients. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Stop for school buses, urges CCSD
Clark County School District Police Department hold a mock traffic stop at Centennial High School in Las Vegas, Monday, Aug. 6, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Work Begins at Las Vegas Community Healing Garden
Crews moved the wooden Remembrance Wall at the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden on South Casino Center Boulevard Monday. Construction on a permanent wall is set to begin within the week. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Man wounded outside Cottages apartment
Las Vegas police don't have a motive after a man was shot early Monday morning outside a northwest valley apartment. The man's mother called police to say her son had been shot. She called police around 1:15 a.m. Other people were inside the apartment but no one else was injured. Police are still looking for the shooter.
Ride new Interstate 11 segment in one minute
Interstate 11 opens to the public Thursday, providing sweeping views of Lake Mead, art deco-style bridges and a mural illustrating the construction of Hoover Dam. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Miss El Tiempo 2019
Miss Teen El Tiempo and Miss El Tiempo 2019 were crowned at Sam's Town Saturday, August 4, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Las Vegas Woman Raises Awareness for Anxiety and Depression
Cassi Davis was diagnosed with anxiety and depression after the birth of her second child. After seeking help and support, she felt that there wasn't enough for support for those living day in and day out for those with mood disorders. She created the Crush Run, set for Sept. 22, to raise money for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and bring together a community of people who live with the same conditions she does. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
North Las Vegas marks the opening of Tropical Parkway connector
The City of North Las Vegas, Nevada Department of Transportation and other partners celebrated the opening of the Tropical Parkway connector to Interstate 15 and the Las Vegas Beltway. The stretch of road will make access easier for distribution centers for Amazon, Sephora and other companies moving into an 1,100-acre industrial area rising near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bighorn sheep with West Temple in background at Zion National Park
A bighorn sheep walks through Zion National Park (National Park Service)
Adult Superstore location closes after 45 years
The Adult Superstore on Main Street has closed its doors for good after 45 years. The shop, which offered a multitude of adult toys, novelty items and movies, opened in 1973. Four other locations remain open. A note on the front door tells customers, “We can’t fully express our sorrow.” Adult Superstore was awarded Best of Las Vegas adult store by the Review-Journal in 2016 and 2017 .
Funeral held for Las Vegas corrections officer
Department of Public Safety Correctional Officer Kyle Eng died July 19 after a fight with an inmate at the Las Vegas Jail. A funeral was held for Eng at Canyon Ridge Christian Church Monday, July 30, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
What Back-To-School Shopping Is Like For a CCSD Parent and Teacher
Laura LeBowsky, a CCSD special education teacher and mother of two, set out to shop for her children's supply lists at her local Walmart and Target. She was looking for deals to try to keep the total under $150, while also allowing Chloe, 8, and Brady, 6, some choice in what they wanted. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Businesses struggle to fill food manufacturing jobs
Chelten House is a family-owned food manufacturing company from New Jersey. They created a facility in Vegas five years ago and have struggled to find experienced workers in the area. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LeBron heckler crosses line, altercation erupts
NBA superstar LeBron James, his wife, Savannah, and daughter Zhuri were at Liberty High School to watch Bronny James in action Wednesday night. But an unruly fan wearing a Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls jersey heckled the newest Los Angeles Laker. The man screamed at event security with LeBron and his family about 150 feet away. The man had to be restrained, triggering a brief altercation with security. James and his family were escorted out a side door along with Bronny's team, the North Coast Blue Chips. Event officials canceled the game between the Blue Chips and Nike Meanstreets.
Las Vegas Oddities Shop in Downtown Las Vegas
Las Vegas Oddities shop owner Vanessa VanAlstyne describes what's for sale in one of the weirder and wackier stores in Downtown Las Vegas. The store opened less than a year ago and carries everything from human bones to "rogue" taxidermy to Victorian death photography. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Henderson police bodycam footage of officer-involved shooting
Henderson police released body-worn camera footage of an officer-involved shooting in a grocery store parking lot at 2667 Windmill Parkway on Aug. 12, 2018. (Henderson Police Department)
Metro Asst. Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Aug. 8 officer-involved shooting
Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman met with media Monday to discuss the details of the 14th officer-involved shooting of the year. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nye County detectives pursue suspects
A swarm of Nye County deputies, at the request of Las Vegas police, surrounded a hotel room in Pahrump last week to take two fugitives into custody. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
Las Vegas judge’s ruling will halt tonight’s execution
On Wednesday Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez issued a ruling that will halt the execution of convicted murderer Scott Dozier. Alvogen Inc., which makes the sedative midazolam, filed a lawsuit Tuesday accusing the Nevada Department of Corrections of surreptitiously obtaining the drug for use in an execution.
3 people shot in southeast Las Vegas
Three men were shot Thursday night in southeast Las Vegas, and two of them have life threatening injuries. Las Vegas police responded to the incident just after 10 p.m. on the 5000 block of Mountain Vista Street. The investigation is in its early stages and police were unable to describe the suspect or say how man people they think were involved. Police encourage anyone with information regarding this shooting to call Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555, or 3-1-1
Robbery suspects apprehended
Four robbery suspects were taken into custody Thursday morning after a vehicle and foot chase that ended in an east Las Vegas neighborhood. The incident began when a person was robbed at gunpoint around 4:45 a.m. near Maryland Parkway and Desert Inn. Officers arriving at the scene tried to stop two vehicles. One vehicle escaped but police chased the second into a neighborhood on Flamingo Road near Mountain Vista Street. Police surrounded the neighborhood and the suspects were apprehended. It looked like one police vehicle was involved in a collision with the suspects' car. One woman suffered an unknown injury and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. 01:04
Las Vegas police looking for robbery suspects
Two robbers who recently targeted three Las Vegas businesses remained at large Tuesday and police are asking the public to help identify them. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Metro Capt. Jaime Prosser gives update of officer-involved shooting
Metro Capt. Jaime Prosser provides an update about an officer-involved shooting at Radwick Drive and Owens Avenue in the northeast Las Vegas on Thursday. A robbery suspect was shot and killed. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
LVMPD Looking For Robbery Suspect
The LVMPD Commercial Robbery Section is attempting to identify the pictured suspect who is responsible for committing robberies to businesses in the southern part of the Las Vegas Valley during the month of May 2018. The suspect enters the business, threatens the employee with a firearm and demands money from the register. The employee complies and the suspect flees the business.
North Las Vegas police are investigating a triple shooting that left one man dead
North Las Vegas police are investigating a triple shooting that left one man dead at 2500 block of Ellis St., on Friday, June 8, 2018. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like