Before he was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday for peddling poisons over the Internet and illegal gun possession, James Christopher Malcolm acknowledged his crimes and declared his thanks to the judge sentencing him and the prosecutor whose case is sending him to prison.
“Basically, from the beginning, I knew I messed up,” the Carmichael father of two told U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley. “I was trying to fix this.”
Malcolm, 31, was arrested in May 2014 following a federal undercover investigation that produced evidence he sold poison over encrypted Internet sites twice and sold illegal automatic weapons and other devices to agents posing as buyers.
Almost immediately after his arrest, however, he began to accept his mistake and take responsibility for his actions, said Assistant Federal Defender Ben Galloway, who told the judge that the case “was an example where the system worked and worked well” and that no one was harmed by his actions.
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Nunley noted that Malcolm had no prior arrests and the support of friends who wrote letters vouching for him prior to sentencing.
“By all accounts, you appear to be an upstanding member of the community who was trying to provide for your family,” the judge told him.
Unfortunately, Nunley added, Malcolm’s method of trying to help his family out of a financial jam was to engage in “very, very serious crimes.”
Court documents in the case, during which Malcolm pleaded guilty in October, indicate that his family’s Carmichael home had fire damage that Malcolm was unaware of when he bought it and that he became desperate to find money to repair the damage before county inspectors forced his family out of the structure.
Eventually, after seeing a “Breaking Bad” episode on television that involved the toxin ricin, Malcolm began investigating poisons and Internet “dark” sites that promised anonymity to buyers and sellers in underground markets for weapons, drugs and other illegal products.
He waded into the marketplace at the same period that the FBI was targeting the operators of such sites, and has been sitting in the Sacramento County jail since his arrest.
Malcolm, who told the judge he has two children ages 7 and 3, originally could have faced 25 years in prison, but his lawyer and prosecutors agreed that a five-year sentence was sufficient.
The judge agreed to his request to recommend he be sent to a federal prison near Iowa, where his family now lives.