San Francisco
U.S. District Court

One-man crime wave gets 31 months for machine gun possession

A San Francisco man was sentenced to 31 months’ imprisonment in federal court today for possession of firearms, including automatic weapons.

Josef Atchan – a felon forbidden to own guns – broadcast himself on Instagram Live brandishing a gun, was arrested with three guns, then, having secured bail, arrived for court in a car containing two more guns.  

A further gun was found in a subsequent search of another vehicle he used.  

“I am not sure that I would have imposed such a light sentence if I had been given the discretion,” said U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, who questioned the leniency of the sentence that was jointly recommended by prosecution and defense attorneys as a consequence of a plea deal.  

One of the men who accompanied Atchan when he arrived at San Francisco’s Hall of Justice, Kameron Kaywood, is suspected of murdering a 20 year old male in the city three months later.

An SFPD officer using an “undercover” social media account to detect illegal activity happened upon one of Atchan’s Instagram Live streams  

The September 2021 broadcast from user cbg_boss_shooter featured a man driving while holding a black handgun equipped with an extended magazine and laser sight. The man’s face was clearly visible and he was recognized as Atchan by police.  

Several months elapsed during which successive search warrants were obtained, first for user data for the cbg_boss_shooter account and, based on this and other investigative activity, including installation of a covert GPS tracker on his vehicle, a warrant to allow a search of him, his home and car.  

SFPD officers, accompanied by agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, arrested Atchan, 26, on the late morning of February 1, 2022 as he got in to a BMW 525 parked outside his Ingleside-district home.  

He was armed with a black .40 caliber Glock 23 pistol equipped with an extended magazine and resisted arrest, compelling officers to use force to take him in to custody.  

A subsequent search of his bedroom turned up two guns classified as assault weapons: a black MasterPiece Arms 30T 9mm pistol and a black AR .223 caliber pistol which was modified to function as an automatic weapon.

Atchan appeared for arraignment two days later in Department 12 of San Francisco Superior Court before Judge Richard Darwin. He was released to ‘pretrial diversion on assertive case management’ – including a requirement that he be fitted with a GPS ankle monitor and that he abide by a curfew.

His release order specified that he was not to possess any weapons.

With Atchan having been released, federal prosecutors filed a complaint against him in U.S. District Court while ATF agents arranged with the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office to have his state charges dismissed.  

With that complaint filed, a seven-strong team of agents, SFPD officers and San Francisco Sheriff’s deputies arrested him when he returned to the Hall of Justice for a scheduled hearing on April 7, 2022.  

He was spotted in a black Honda parked one block from the Hall of Justice.  

Officers found a black Glock 23 equipped with a high capacity magazine and converted to fire as a machine gun on the rear passenger seat of the Honda, and a loaded ‘ghost gun’ in a seat pouch.  

He was accompanied in the vehicle by two others: Joseph Redmond and Kameron Kaywood. Kaywood is presently in custody suspected of shooting and killing 20-year old Carlos Discua in the Lower Haight on June 30, 2022 – scarcely three months after he was briefly held near the Hall of Justice.  

Before letting Kaywood go, officers noted that he was on post-release community supervision as a result of 2020 case in San Francisco where he was accused of assault with a deadly weapon.  

Atchan was granted pretrial release, again, only days after his arrest by U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Hixson over the objection of federal prosecutors who pointed to his “litany of criminal conduct and rule-breaking” which “demonstrates that he is a danger to the community.”  

But by the end of August he was remanded to custody after becoming embroiled in a burglary investigation. That same month investigators enterprisingly conducted a search of another vehicle previously used by Atchan and uncovered another gun plus identification cards linked to him.  

In 2017 Atchan was convicted of felony concealed firearms possession and served 14 days in jail. In 2019 he was again convicted of felony concealed firearms possession and was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. In 2020 he was convicted of felony hit-and-run and driving without a license.

“Like many black men before the court in similar matters,” wrote defense attorney David Rizk in a sentencing memorandum, “Mr Atchan was born into difficult circumstances: he had no father figure, an overworked mother, and he was raised in a community plagued by violence and drugs.”  

“The trauma of his childhood taught him that the law could not guarantee his safety or the safety of those around him and, unfortunately, he internalized that lesson.”  

Atchan’s diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder further impaired his judgement, Rizk added.  

“Considerations of public safety,” Rizk told the court, “do not justify a longer custodial sentence.”  

“To the extent that Mr Atchan is maladjusted to risk taking and assessing consequences, there is little reason to think incarceration will address these issues.”  

In a somewhat spare sentencing memorandum, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Carlsberg noted that the Government’s recommended 31 month sentence is “substantially longer than [Atchan’s] previous sentence for a conviction related to illegal possession of a firearm” and will “serve to promote [his] respect for the law, provide just punishment, and afford adequate deterrence.”  

Atchan pleaded guilty to one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. His plea agreement is not publicly available. He did not admit that the weapons found in either the vehicle in which he arrived at court or the impounded vehicle were his.

Earlier this year attorneys for Atchan tried to get the evidence thrown out by arguing that an affidavit used by an SFPD officer to obtain a warrant did not establish probable cause because it did not explain the process by which the officer identified Atchan after viewing the Instagram broadcast.  

This was given short shrift by Judge Chhabria who, while accepting that the affidavit was “vague and incomplete,” in that it left out information about the process by which Atchan was identified, it was not misleading and probable cause was established.

“I will say that I am not sure I would have imposed such a light sentence if I had been given the discretion.”

U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria

At today’s hearing at San Francisco Federal Courthouse, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria aired his misgivings about the leniency of the proposed sentence of 31 months that was jointly proposed by prosecutors and the defense.  

“I will say that I am not sure I would have imposed such a light sentence if I had been given the discretion,” the judge said.  

“Given Mr Atchan’s history, the primary concern in this case has to be protection of the safety of the public – and I am concerned that, given the conduct in this case, and given his history, I am concerned about the safety of the public.”  

The judge ultimately concluded that he would defer to the recommendation and imposed a 31 month term of imprisonment.

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