South Paris woman admits to federal gun charge

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A South Paris woman faces up to 10 years in federal prison for buying a gun for a felon who used it two years ago in a shootout with state police and was killed.

Stephanie Knightly, 50, pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Portland to a charge of transferring a firearm to a felon.

Knightly bought a semiautomatic pistol in a private sale in a store parking lot in Scarborough on Aug. 16, 2014. Accompanying her was Steven Piirainen of Paris, who had arranged the meeting and gave Knightly cash for the purchase. The two had been friends for more than 20 years, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Darcie McElwee.

Piirainen, a convicted felon, was barred from having a firearm.

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After the gun sale, Piirainen left Knightly’s vehicle with the pistol. The next day, after stealing a truck from the parking lot of the Passenger Rail Restaurant & Bar in Norway, where Knightly worked, Piirainen led police on a nearly 40-mile chase north to Main Street in Mexico.

He started a shootout with the Maine State Police. He was shot while he was in the stolen pickup truck and died from two gunshot wounds to the chest and neck, according to published reports.

Piirainen had told Knightly that he knew his probation officer was planning to arrest him and he was “never going back” to prison, McElwee wrote in court papers.

Knightly faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. She will be sentenced after completion of a pre-sentence investigation report by the U.S. Probation Office.

According to published reports, the shootout lasted several hours.

Piirainen had an extensive police record.

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