Rocky sentence? Not max

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Fires lawyer at sentencing hearing

By Damon Lawrence

Rocky Houston didn’t receive the maximum punishment on Thursday, but he came close.

The sentencing guidelines on his federal conviction ranged from seven to nine years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves went with the top of the guidelines and sentenced Houston to nine years.

“This man is dangerous and you should protect the public for as long as you can,” Assistant U.S. Attorney David Jennings said, when arguing why Houston deserved nine years.

Houston, 53, was found guilty in March of being a convicted felon in possession of firearms.

Reeves had the option to go above the guidelines and sentence Houston to a maximum of 10 years in prison, but opted not to. Reeves said Houston is set in his ways and he didn’t think one more year in prison would change how Houston feels about the justice system.

“If I thought it did, I wouldn’t hesitate to impose it,” Reeves said.

Houston objected to Michael McGovern serving as his attorney during the sentencing hearing and chose to represent himself.

“I feel like my attorney is totally unprepared for this,” Houston said. “I’m asking to be able to represent myself.”

Reeves advised him not to, but Houston persisted.

“It is the court’s determination that Mr. McGovern has zealously represented you to this point,” Reeves said.

“Sir, I believe I’d be better off at this point,” Houston responded. “I feel like I know a little bit more about my background.”

McGovern left the defense table, but remained in the courtroom. Houston said he planned to call him as a witness, but McGovern never took the stand.

The only witness who testified was Roane County Sheriff’s Office Drug Investigator Jason Mynatt.

He worked with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives during the Houston investigation and testified about some of the weapons seized during a search of the Houston farm on Jan. 11, 2013.

Houston wasn’t at the farm because he had been arrested in Kingston earlier that day, but the government argued that he had constructive possession over the 25 firearms that were seized.

Mynatt also testified about a billboard on the Houston farm that contained photos of the dead bodies of Roane County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Bill Jones and his ride-along friend Mike Brown. Jones and Brown, a former lawman, were killed in a shootout with Houston and his older brother Leon in 2006. The Houstons faced first-degree murder charges in state court, but were never convicted.

Jennings said the Houston brothers treated the pictures as trophies — and as a warning to other law enforcement officers.

“You saw the pictures of Bill Jones and Mike Brown,” Jennings said. “You know who won that war. Enough said.”

Christine Jones, Bill Jones’ mother, and Pat Brown, Mike Brown’s mother, were both in the courtroom on Thursday.

Pat Brown openly wept when the photos of her son’s deceased body were shown on a computer screen.

“It’s not long enough,” she said about the sentence after the hearing.

Houston will get credit for time he’s already served. Then he will be on three years of supervised released after he gets out of prison. Reeves also ordered Houston to undergo a mental evaluation.