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Felony gun charges dropped

Published: Thursday, Jan. 3 2008 12:07 a.m. MST

Kiddus Chane Yohannes

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PROVO — He was a foreign student who watched violent video games and had a fascination for semiautomatic weapons.

But that doesn't mean Kiddus Chane Yohannes, a 20-year-old Ethiopian, can be arrested and charged with crimes he didn't commit, said his attorney, Richard Gale.

"In our zeal to be protected from other people, we can't start arresting people and charging them with crimes they haven't committed yet, which we suspect they're going to commit in the future," Gale said.

Two felony charges against Yohannes for using false numbers to purchase guns were dismissed last week based on a judge's ruling.

Fourth District Judge Gary Stott ruled that the gun purchasing forms the foreign student filled out were ambiguous as to which numbers he had to provide and which ones were optional, and thus Chane hadn't broken the law by providing an wrong, but optional, number.

The ruling stops a jury trial scheduled for Wednesday and today.

Yohannes was arrested in June after his roommate went to the Orem Police to report that he was watching violent video games and making threats against police officers.

Police later learned that the man had purchased guns from pawnshops eight months earlier.

"The police began very concerned about (Chane) when the roommates were saying ... that he was hiding weapons and that he was playing violent games and discussing that he was going to kill people," said prosecutor Donna Kelly. "Those were the things that caused the police to look a little harder into how he obtained the weapons."

However, Gale denies that his client was hiding guns, saying that Chane Yohannes had provided his correct name, address, date of birth and Utah driver's license number.

However, police became more concerned when they found Chane Yohannes had used two different numbers to buy the guns.

Gale said Chane Yohannes, who is a legal permanent resident, didn't intentionally write two different numbers, but confused his alien registration number with his application number.

And despite Kelly's disagreement with that, Stott agreed, saying the form was unclear.

"The judge determined (Chane) didn't violate the statute," Gale said. "So even if it is a wrong number, it wasn't required for a criminal background check."

Chane Yohannes will appear in 4th District Court today for another charge of possession of an ATM card that belonged to his roommate. However, the card had never been used, Gale said.

Gale said his client is still confused about all the attention regarding his purchasing of guns, which he legally has a right to possess.

"(Chane) had a roommate that was scared and told the police," Gale said. "I think (police) had good intentions, they want to make sure that a school shooting doesn't happen here, but they went about it in the wrong way by trying to look for a criminal charge instead of getting him into counseling. I know people don't like to hear that, they want law enforcement to stop these kinds of shootings before they happen — (but) we cannot stop people for doing things that we think they're going to do in the future."


E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com

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