Office of Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr.

November 13, 2001 Media Inquiries: Sean Caine 410-576-6357


Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today that a Talbot County man was convicted and sentenced as a result of his statewide prosecution initiative, Operation Crime Gun. William Herbert Clopein, 36, of Easton, was found guilty by the Honorable William S. Horne, sitting for the Circuit Court for Talbot County, to three counts of illegal possession of a firearm. Horne sentenced Clopein to 10 years in jail, suspending five, with five years of supervised probation upon release. Special conditions include forfeiting all firearms seized.

On March 6, 2001, the Maryland State Police received a tip from an anonymous citizen that Clopein threatened to kill a specific trooper at the Maryland State Police Barrick in Easton. The citizen said the defendant referred to the two officers who had been recently killed, and stated "If you think what happened in Queen Anne's County was ugly, wait until you see what I do to [this Trooper]." The citizen provided specifics about Clopein, including his physical description and location of his residence.

Maryland State Police's Cease Fire Unit began investigating and discovered that the defendant had been arrested for DWI on December 16, 2000 by the very trooper the concerned citizen stated Clopein threatened to kill. During Clopein's arrest by the trooper, Clopein spit in the trooper's face, kicked him in the nose and lips causing a laceration, and broke a bathroom sink at the barrack.

A criminal background check of the defendant was conducted, revealing that the defendant was convicted in1986 of Distribution of Marijuana. This conviction disqualifies the defendant from being able to possess any firearm, including handguns, shotguns, and rifles pursuant to Maryland law. It was also discovered that in November 2000, the defendant attempted to purchase a shotgun from Bay Country Guns. Agents from the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms reviewed that application, and denied Clopein the ability to purchase the firearm because of his prior drug conviction. Cloepin immediately tried to terminate the purchase when he learned his criminal background had been discovered.

Investigators also learned that in November 2000, the defendant tried to have someone buy guns for him, which would have constituted an illegal straw purchase. That person refused to do that for Clopein.

On March 9, 2001, the Maryland State Police Cease Fire Unit along with the Special Tactical Assault Team, executed a search and seizure warrant on Clopein's Easton home to recover firearms that he was believed to illegally possess. A .12 gauge Mossberg shotgun was discovered hidden behind the refrigerator in the kitchen. A .22 Ruger rifle and a 30-30 Marlin rifle were located hidden beneath a cabinet shelf in the dining room. These guns were found underneath a "false bottom" shelf that made their detection extremely difficult. Finally, a .38 Smith & Wesson revolver was located in the Clopein's bedroom. Troopers discovered that all of the firearms recovered were loaded and placed around the house. Additionally, numerous rounds of ammunition, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia were seized from the residence. Bullet holes were observed in some of the walls in the defendant's bedroom. A phone book was observed to have "I will kill you" written on the top of it. A police scanner was discovered in the front porch area, and the windows to the residence had nails in the frame to prevent them from being opened.

"The gun laws of this state exist to keep guns out of the hands of people like William Clopein," Attorney General Curran said. "The cooperation of multiple law enforcement agencies, in tandem with assistance from the community, helped to avert the potential for serious tragedy."

Clopein was also sentenced to seven years in jail on assault charges and 60 days to run consecutively, on a DWI charge.

This case was investigated by the Cease Fire Unit of the Maryland State Police and was prosecuted by the Office of the Attorney General, Special Crimes Unit, Criminal Investigations Division, in connection with a partnership the two agencies have formed to further efforts to combat handgun violations. Funding for Operation Crime Gun comes from a $107,6750 grant received from the Governor's Office on Crime Control and Prevention.