A southwestern Pennsylvania man who pleaded guilty to illegally possessing silencers and machine guns used one of the illegal devices to shoot up the car of another man at the request of a southwestern Pennsylvania police chief, federal prosecutors said. That police chief is awaiting trial on federal extortion and other charges.
Timothy D. Johnson, 41, of Washington, Pa., pleaded guilty on Thursday and will be sentenced Feb. 19 on charges that he sold a gun to a known felon, and possessing and transferring silencers and a machine gun.
Johnson was arrested last year and told the FBI then that he used one of his silencers in a drive-by shooting that damaged a car in Washington County in April 2011.
“Johnson told the FBI that former East Washington Police Chief Donald Solomon instigated the shooting,” U.S. Attorney David Hickton said in a news release about Johnson’s guilty plea.
Johnson’s attorney, Lee Markovitz, provided more details, saying Johnson was living with the chief’s ex-wife at the time and that Johnson did the drive-by shooting after Solomon asked Johnson to intimidate a man who once dated the chief’s ex-girlfriend. The FBI has characterized the drive-by target as a drug dealer and that Solomon was jealous of him.
Johnson “was asked by Don Solomon to actually go into the home and put a gun to somebody’s head” but Johnson, instead, chose a less dangerous option of riddling the man’s car with bullets during a drive-by shooting, Markovitz said.
Solomon’s public defender, Marketa Sims, declined to comment on the allegations against her client, who was indicted last year on charges he accepted “protection” money from an FBI agent posing as a drug dealer and illegally selling the agent stun guns.
Solomon was indicted last October and has remained free on bond, though a federal magistrate ordered him confined on house arrest.
Solomon initially went back to live with his ex-wife as a condition of his pretrial release, but the magistrate allowed him to move and be confined to another home after she refused to feed him, court records show.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Margaret Picking said a regional Joint Terrorism Task force began investigating Johnson after he was overheard talking in a coffee shop about silencers he made.
Markovitz contends Johnson became impatient while trying to get a gun license that would have allowed him to legally possess most of the items Johnson was making and that an FBI informant “fed his ego” which led to the illegal gun and silencer sales.
Johnson was a “gun enthusiast” with “dreams of designing a better silencer” that he hoped to patent, Markovitz said.
Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.
Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.