PAXTON — A convicted felon from Gibson City who had access to guns and ammunition purportedly owned by his father was convicted this week of nine counts of unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon and faces a mandatory prison term when sentenced in March.
A 12-member jury deliberated for about 30 minutes Tuesday before returning the verdict against Noah P. Ringel, 37, following a one-day trial in Ford County Circuit Court.
Judge Matt Fitton immediately ordered Ringel into the custody of the Ford County Sheriff’s Office until he is sentenced at 10 a.m. March 26. Ringel faces a mandatory sentence ranging from two to 10 years in the Illinois Department or Corrections.
Ringel, who has a felony domestic battery conviction from Tazewell County in 2006, allegedly possessed a Remington shotgun, a Ruger Mini 14 rifle and a Magnum Research 1911G pistol, along with various ammunition, at his home at 406 S. Church St. in Gibson City in October 2017.
After receiving information about the weapons and confirming Ringel’s status as a convicted felon, Gibson City police officers executed a search warrant at the residence, finding a large gun safe which held the firearms and ammunition.
During his trial, Ringel and his father, William Ringel, both testified that the safe, the firearms and the ammunition belonged to the elder Ringel, who also stayed in the home. They both testified that the younger Ringel did not know the combination to the safe and, therefore, could not access its contents.
However, State’s Attorney Andrew Killian presented testimony showing that on at least one occasion, Noah Ringel had opened the safe and handled two of the firearms while showing them off to a friend.
Further, Gibson City Police Capt. Kaleb Kraft testified that while police were executing the search warrant, Noah Ringel provided Kraft the combination to the safe over the telephone. Noah Ringel was not home at the time.
Other items recovered from the safe included copies of Noah Ringel’s birth certificate, along with those of two of his children and two sets of ear protection used in shooting that were labeled “Noah.”
In his closing argument, Killian told the jury that if the story about seeing Ringel handle the firearms from the safe was made up by his friend, as Ringel argued, then the friend would not have been able to correctly describe unique characteristics of the rife and pistol that were after-market additions to both guns.
“The witness was able to accurately describe to the police and again to the jury that the 1911 pistol had been equipped with a rubber grip over the original wood grips and a stainless-steel flash suppressor/compensator,” Killian said in a news release. “He also described the rifle had been fitted out with a bi-pod to assist in long-range shooting from a prone position.”
Killian also argued that ownership of the guns and ammunition was irrelevant to the legal question of “possession.”
“The law does not require an individual owns a gun, which felons are prohibited from doing, in order to show they possessed it or ammunition,” Killian said. “It only requires the state demonstrate the felon handled the items or had the ability to access the guns or ammunition.”
After Fitton read the nine guilty verdicts aloud, Killian asked that Ringel be immediately taken into police custody, arguing that the Class 3 felony convictions require a mandatory prison sentence and that Ringel no longer had the right to remain free on bond.
Killian also cited the fact that Ringel had been charged in Ford County Circuit Court with felonious domestic battery on Jan. 13, and if convicted of that offense, Ringel would need to serve any prison sentence he receives in that case consecutively to the sentence he receives in this case.
Agreeing with Killian, Fitton ordered Ringel into police custody until his sentencing. In addition to the mandatory prison term, Ringel could be fined up to $25,000 per count and have the firearms and ammunition surrendered.
In his news release, Killian praised the work of Gibson City police, including Chief Adam Rosendahl, Kraft, former officer Victor Crouch and the late Lt. Tony Row.
“Chief Rosendahl, Capt. Kraft and the other officers from Gibson City responded quickly to the information they received, and in doing so (they) removed three firearms and hundreds of rounds of ammunition from an individual with multiple prior violent offenses,” Killian said. “Their combined effort in executing the search warrant, recognizing the importance of and documenting the items tying Noah Ringel to the guns and ammunition, and the testimony of Kraft and the other witnesses for the state in front of the jury sealed the conviction.”
Ringel was represented by Bloomington attorney Todd Ringel, no relation, of the Johnson Law Group.