Felon disputes charge involving gun he found

GREENSBURG, Pa. (AP) - August 25, 2011

"I'll tell you, this stinks," Terry Fairbanks, 49, of Murrysville, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review for a story in Wednesday's newspaper. "You try to do the right thing and police turn around, do something like this just to try to build their reputations."

Westmoreland County prosecutors and South Greensburg police Officer Henry Fontana, who filed the charges in May, declined to comment after Fairbanks waived his right to a preliminary hearing Tuesday on charges of receiving stolen property and illegal possession of a firearm by a felon. Prosecutors didn't return a call for comment Wednesday from The Associated Press, and police said Fontana was unavailable until Friday.

Fairbanks acknowledged being a convicted burglar who can't legally possess a gun, but said he believes this case is different because he got in trouble only after he reported the gun to police.

Fairbanks said he works for a T-shirt manufacturer, but collects aluminum cans to make extra money. He's found other lost items, including a tool box, a purse and a wallet which he said he returned to their rightful owners in recent years. In late April, he said, he found a .22-caliber handgun and, at first, hid it because he considered selling the gun. Fairbanks said he decided against that because he didn't want to get into trouble, so he called police to report it on May 9.

Fairbanks was charged the next day when Fontana learned the gun had been reported stolen in a burglary in Lawrence County, some 60 miles away.

In a criminal complaint, Fontana justified the stolen property charge by saying Fairbanks had "no intent to restore (the gun) to the owner, knowing such property was stolen or believing that it had been stolen."

Fairbanks has not hired an attorney and plans to fight the charges at trial after turning down a plea bargain offer Tuesday.

"I did not do anything wrong," Fairbanks said. "They offered me 11½ to 23 months (in jail) for doing the right thing and that is just not right."

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