In the Autokey Card case, a jury found Matthew Hoover, better known as CRS Firearms on YouTube, and Justin Ervin guilty.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) charged the men with violating the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934 for selling machineguns and conspiracy. Ervin faced an additional charge of structuring. The case stems from Mr. Ervin selling a metal card with an image inspired by a lightning link etched into it. Ervin sold the cards as a novelty and contracted with Mr. Hoover to promote the card on his popular YouTube Channel.
The ATF arrested Ervin in April of 2021 and charged him with transferring unregistered machineguns. Mr. Ervin was denied bail and has been locked up since his arrest. Hoover used his platform to raise money for Ervin’s legal defense. The ATF viewed the fundraising activities as conspiracy and accused the men of running a criminal enterprise. A year after Ervin was arrested, the ATF raided Hoover’s house and took him into custody.
This time a Wisconsin judge released Hoover on his own recognizance, saying he didn’t believe the YouTuber was a flight risk or a danger to society. The U.S. Attorney pushed for Hoover to be kept in custody, but her arguments fell short.
The trial ran for two weeks. AmmoLand News recapped the first week. This week six of Hoover’s viewers testified. Four of the witnesses stated that they bought the Autokey Card after seeing it on the CRS Firearms YouTube channel but never intended to cut it out. Another witness nervously testified he bought the item to make a machinegun and accused CRS firearms of encouraging his viewers to break the law.
The final witness stated he was driving when he heard automatic gunfire. He said he pulled over and found three men in a field. The men had two Autokey Cards. One was cut out, and one wasn’t. The men gave him both because they couldn’t get it to work. The man is a machinist and figured he could use his skills to get the item to function. After hours of trying and failing, he threw away the cut-out Autokey Card. When he saw the arrest of Ervin, he contacted a lawyer that arranged for him to turn it in to the ATF.
The ATF examiners also testified and showed a ten-second low-quality video of an AR-15 firing automatically with a cut-out Autokey Card. There was no video before or after the firing.
When pressed, the ATF admitted they could only get one of the three Autokey Cards they possessed to work. They also admitted to jamming the Autokey Card into the firearm to create hammer follow.
This action is similar to where the ATF ruled a sliver of metal to be a machinegun.
The ATF also admitted that the Bureau assigned twelve agents to collect Autokey Cards from the public before being told to stop by their higher-ups, who thought it was a waste of money. The ATF employees also admitted to taking classes on convincing a jury of their testimony.
On Tuesday night, the U.S. Attorney’s Office requested that the jury be instructed that the Autokey Card is a machinegun whether it works or not and that they must rule if the men transferred the items and if the men’s intent was to transfer uncut lightning links. They also wanted the judge to prevent the defense from arguing that the Autokey Card was not a machinegun.
The judge was annoyed at the prosecution for springing the request at such a late hour. The judge refused most of the proposed jury instructions. The prosecution also asked for an hour and thirty minutes for closing arguments. The judge told the prosecution to limit their arguments to 45 minutes.
The defense asked for the case to be dismissed. The prosecution asked the judge to deny the request. The judge did not deny the request but said she would wait until after the jury returned a verdict. That verdict is now in after the jury deliberated for five hours.
Mr. Ervin was found guilty on one charge of structuring. Structuring is a financial crime where a person structures withdraws to avoid red flags. Withdraws over $10,000 triggers and automatic investigation. In addition to the structuring charge he was also charged with conspiracy. Conspiracy is an agreement between two or more people to commit an illegal act. The final ten charges were ten counts of transferring machineguns.
Mr. Hoover was found guilty of five of the eight charges, including four charges of transferring machineguns and one charge of conspiracy.
Hoover was remanded into custody because the federal prosecutor stated she felt personally “threatened” by Mr. Hoover. Ervin has been in federal custody for the last two years and will remain in custody.
The men will be held until sentencing on July 31, 2023.
About John Crump
John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at www.crumpy.com.