Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - A 29-year-old Missoula man, Michael Blake DeFrance, was convicted this week in Missoula Federal District Court of multiple firearms charges and faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

KGVO News spoke to Montana’s U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich about the case, presided over by U.S. District Court Judge Dana L. Christensen.

A Missoula Man Convicted of Federal Firearms Charges

“It was an important case and an important result,” began Laslovich. “We had indicted Mr. de France for being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm, which is, of course, against federal law in addition to making misrepresentations in his application for such firearms.”

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Laslovich said Domestic Violence was the Underlying Offense

Laslovich said the case has further implications aside from just the firearms charges.

“It is significant because the underlying offense was a state offense for domestic violence, and the person he ultimately pleaded guilty to committing domestic violence against was not married to him but living with him. She has since been missing since 2018, which is frustrating as the case has gotten cold, not for lack of trying, but prior to that was convicted of domestic violence.”

According to a Department of Justice press release, the government alleged that in May 2013, DeFrance was sentenced for partner or family member assault on Jermain Charlo in Sanders County. A justice of the peace presided over DeFrance’s change of plea hearing and imposed sentence. DeFrance signed a waiver of rights form in which he acknowledged his rights, which included – on a list of possible consequences of pleading guilty – the loss of firearms rights. The same form contained space for DeFrance to explain the basis for his guilty plea, and his form stated, “On 4-14-2013, in Sanders County, I caused bodily injury to my girlfriend.”

Laslovich said the case is important for specific legal reasons.

“We indicted him for the prohibited person in possession of a firearm, a little risky in the sense that there's no case law in the Ninth Circuit on whether the victim, in this case, was similarly situated,” he said. “In other words, was he truly prohibited based on that underlying offense? We think that he was, and were really pleased that Judge Christensen agreed with his verdict. It's a victory. I think for Montana women, people who are living in households who are not married, and ultimately for Montana families.”

Laslovich said The Domestic Violence Victim is Still Missing

Laslovich said if it is determined that DeFrance is found responsible for Charlo's death should her body be recovered, then he would be tried for homicide.

“If it's determined during the investigation that in fact, he is responsible for her disappearance, and if it was determined that the victim was murdered, it would be up to life in prison. In fact, if there was a determination on first-degree murder, and that it was premeditated, then it's mandatory life in federal prison, and then if found guilty of second-degree murder, it would be up to life in prison. So it just depends on the facts and circumstances, but I know our law enforcement partners will continue to be aggressive and follow any leads.”

Laslovich said DeFrance’s sentencing for the firearms charges is set for September 21.

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