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Charlie Tan pleads guilty to federal weapons charges Friday

Charlie Tan is expected to plead guilty Friday in federal court in Syracuse in connection to federal weapons charges. (WHAM photo)

Syracuse, N.Y. (WHAM) - Charlie Tan pleaded guilty to all three weapons charges in federal court Friday - but did not admit to killing his father.

Tan pleaded guilty to the charges of receiving a firearm with intent to commit an offense, false statement during purchase of a firearm and false statement during purchase of a firearm, as well as aiding and abetting, and willfully causing a federal offense. The charges stemmed from the purchase of a shotgun used to kill his father, Jim Tan, in Pittsford back in February 2015.

As Tan pleaded guilty, supporters in court blew him kisses, saying "We love you."

"It's a tough day," said family friend and supporter Dave Testa. "A sad day, and it will be good to get it behind us. I feel bad for Charlie, the family. As you can see from all the friends he had here - I feel bad for us all. It's a tough deal."

As part of the plea agreement, the 22-year-old admitted that he asked multiple friends at Cornell University to buy a shotgun for him on February 5. When the first person was unable to purchase the shotgun, he texted a second friend, asking "you wanna make a quick 100$" and picked up the friend, later identified as Whitney Knickerbocker. Tan lied and said he needed the shotgun for a hunting trip in Pennsylvania that weekend.

Knickerbocker then bought the shotgun for Tan. After obtaining the shotgun and ammunition, Tan then went to his Pittsford family home on Coach Side Lane where his father was located. In an offer of proof brief filed by prosecuting attorneys, attorneys wanted Tan to admit to shooting and killing his father in his office at their home. However Tan's attorneys said the plea agreement did not cover this allegation.

"Ultimately, this is a very different case than the state case," said James Nobles, Tan's attorney. "He's not charged with the same charges. Ultimately, this has been a long road for him, and he wanted to take responsibility for what he did do. That's what he did today."

As part of the plea deal, Tan did admit that he "intended to use [the gun] to commit a felony offense against his father...specifically the shooting of his father."

Tan was initially tried for the murder of his father, Jim Tan, in February 2015 at their home in Pittsford. His first trial ended in a mistrial and Judge James Piampiano threw out the charges against him just as a second trial was scheduled to begin.

On September 22, 2017, Tan was arrested as he tried to enter the United States near Buffalo to attend the wedding of a friend.

An indictment handed down by a grand jury earlier this month alleged that a person described only as "W.K." was directed to purchase a Remington Model 870 12 gauge shotgun from a Cortland County Walmart on Tan's behalf. The indictment further alleged that Tan intended to use the shotgun to shoot his father.

Documents filed in federal court as early as Monday show defense attorneys had lined up several potential character witnesses for Tan. Prosecuting attorneys had an extensive list of more than 130 exhibits that were to be used in the trial.

The Monroe County District Attorney's Office issued a statement following the plea, calling it "justice for Jim Tan."

"We certainly believed that our proof strongly supported Tan’s role in the homicide of his father," Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley said in a statement. "Today’s plea demonstrates that involvement. I want to thank our Federal partners, whom we have been working with since the inception of their investigation, for their assistance in this matter, as well as the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office for their hard work and diligence in this prosecution. Again, justice for Jim Tan!

The maximum sentence for the federal weapons charges is 10 years in federal prison.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 18 at 10 a.m. in Syracuse.

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