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Man who illegally bought gun for Austin-East student seeks federal probation

Kelvon Foster bought the 9mm pistol for 17-year-old Anthony Thompson Jr., who died in a confrontation with KPD officers in April 2021.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The man who illegally bought a pistol for an Austin-East High School student who ended up dying in a confrontation with Knoxville police hopes a judge will give him probation.

Kelvon Foster, 22, faces sentencing June 30 before U.S. District Court Judge Katherine A. Crytzer in Knoxville. Foster has admitted lying in order to buy the 9mm pistol in April 2021 at a Knoxville store for Anthony Thompson Jr., who was 17 and legally prohibited from purchasing the gun.

Thompson gave Foster cash and marijuana for the gun purchase, authorities have said.

Thompson had the loaded gun with him the afternoon of April 12, 2021, when Knoxville police confronted him in an Austin-East bathroom. The gun went off in a struggle, and a Knoxville Police Department officer responded by shooting and killing Thompson.

Filing a sentencing memo Tuesday on Foster's behalf, defense attorneys Benjamin Sharp and Nakeisha C. Jackson argue their client is devastated and depressed by what happened to Thompson.

He never conceived it could end as it did, the attorneys write.

"Von fully accepts responsibility for what he did in falsely claiming that the firearm he purchased was for his personal ownership," they wrote. "In no way could he have anticipated what would occur weeks later, and he suffers from the guilt his actions contributed to such a tragedy. He is remorseful for his decisions and completely recognizes that firearms cannot be a part of his future in any way. To say that Von apologizes to all that have suffered due to any action he has taken is an understatement."

Jackson and Sharp said Foster had grown up surrounded by violence and among family members who have had to serve time in jail or prison.

But, they said, he'd never been in trouble himself before buying the pistol for Thompson.

They wrote that Thompson had been a family friend since he was a little boy.

If the court doesn't agree to impose probation, the defense hopes she will give him a sentence of some 8 to 11 months that he could serve on home confinement, records state.

Federal prosecutors, in their own sentencing memo filed earlier this month, say they recognize that Foster feels guilt for what he did. He's also got "strong family support" and is willing to work.

"The defendant was devastated to learn of the consequences of his actions," prosecutor Tracy L. Stone wrote. "He immediately confessed and helped law enforcement recover all the firearms he had straw-purchased for others. He met with law enforcement several times during this process. Similarly, the defendant's family fully assisted law enforcement and supported the defendant throughout that process."

Stone observed further, "In the end, no punishment imposed by this court will compare with the defendant's permanent punishment of knowing that (his) actions led to the death of his friend."

The government thinks "any prison sentence" of between 5 months and 16 months could be justified, Stone wrote.

Credit: U.S. District Court
Kelvon Foster photos submitted with his sentencing memo.

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