Little Rock man pleads guilty to felony gun charge in federal court

Felon, 28, faces up to 10 years

A Little Rock man is facing a possible 10-year prison term after pleading guilty in federal court to one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Michael Lynn Tappin, 28, was indicted in March 2022 by a federal grand jury on charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and one count each of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, amphetamine and oxycodone. According to court records, Little Rock police saw a black Dodge Charger speeding and weaving in and out of traffic on John Barrow Road on Aug. 20, 2021. After stopping the vehicle when it made a left turn onto Colonel Glenn Road, officers discovered Tappin -- the driver and sole occupant of the car -- was on court supervision and had a search waiver on file.

After telling police he had "a little weed" in the car, court documents said, a search was conducted that turned up marijuana, oxycodone and adderall, a Springfield Armory 9mm semiautomatic pistol and just over $1,300 in cash.

According to court records, Tappin has two previous convictions for possession of marijuana with intent to deliver and possession of drug paraphernalia: one in a 2017 case in Pulaski County and one in a 2020 case in Hempstead County.

Court records also indicated that Tappin, who had been on pre-trial release since March 17, 2022, had his release revoked in January after numerous violations were recorded, including falsifying an employment validation letter that was discovered after Tappin's vehicle crashed following a high speed pursuit by Little Rock police on Nov. 27 of last year. Court records said the driver escaped and that Tappin denied involvement, telling police his car was stolen while he was at work. No charges have been filed in that case, according to court records.

Escorted into the courtroom Wednesday by U.S. marshals, Tappin was seated with his attorney, Adam Childers of Little Rock.

U.S. District Judge James M. Moody Jr. advised Tappin that the statutory penalties for the crime of felon in possession of a firearm are a maximum 10-year prison term, a $250,000 fine and three years on supervised release. But, Moody cautioned him, if he is found to qualify as an armed career criminal under federal statutes, he could face a prison term ranging from 15 years to life in prison and five years on supervised release.

"Are you willing to go forward with this plea given the chance you could be designated an armed career criminal?" Moody asked.

"Yes," Tappin replied.

After explaining Tappin's right to a jury trial and the rights he would surrender by pleading guilty, Moody explained that if -- following completion of a pre-sentence report -- his guideline sentence turns out to be higher than anticipated, or if he is sentenced to a prison term above the guideline range, he would not be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea.

"Do you realize that by pleading guilty you are giving up virtually every right of appeal you have?" Moody asked, explaining that the only appeal rights he would retain would be in the event of prosecutorial misconduct, a sentence above the guideline range if an objection is raised at sentencing, or ineffective assistance of counsel.

After a reading of the elements of the offense by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Ray White, Tappin pleaded guilty to the offense, after which Moody dismissed the remaining charges.

Moody cautioned Tappin to go over his pre-sentence report once it is completed by the U.S. Probation Office in Little Rock -- a process that normally takes between 60 and 90 days -- and that should any information be erroneous, to have Childers raise an objection prior to sentencing.

"In a gun case you don't want credit for a crime some other Mr. Tappin has committed," Moody warned. "Once we have your sentencing there's no correcting your report."