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Marine impostor pleads guilty in federal court

December 14, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Steven Burton pleaded guilty to impersonating a U.S. Marine Monday afternoon. Burton was caught wearing full military dress to a recent high-school reunion and bragging about tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.Burton said the only reason why he wore the medals was to show off to his classmates, but that was a decision that could end up costing him a year in federal prison. Late Monday, he pleaded guilty.

Eyewitness News tried to catch up with Burton outside the Federal Courthouse in Riverside but he wouldn't speak on camera.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said Burton was buying all kinds of military paraphernalia over the past two years, including boots, books, a Marine Corps uniform, a Marine Corps sword and nearly a dozen medals, including a Purple Heart and the Navy Cross, the Navy's highest honor.

Burton purchased these items on eBay and at an Army surplus store in Twentynine Palms. He first wore the uniform to a Halloween party in 2007, then again in 2008.

Apparently he received so many compliments that he wore the uniform and the medals to his high-school reunion and bragged about tours of duty in Iraq and armed combat.

Someone noticed something was wrong and called the FBI. That's when investigators came in and charges were later filed.

As far as Burton's sentencing range, that's up to the judge.

"The presumption is entirely left to the judge," said Michael DeFrank, Burton's defense attorney. "The sentence can be anywhere from zero to 12 months. There is no mandatory-minimum or anything that requires the judge to sentence Mr. Burton to federal prison."

Burton will return to federal court in downtown Riverside on March 1 at 9 a.m. for sentencing.

The prosecutor said that in federal court, sentencing is up to the judge. He said the agreement that he has with the defendant is that the judge will come up with a sentence range probably under that maximum of a year, and the prosecutors will ask for the lower end of that range.


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