Retired Marine denied sentencing appeal
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May 6, 2009 - 6:19 PM

A retired Camp Lejeune Marine acquitted of state murder charges in 2006, but later sent to prison for 14 years on related federal gun violations was recently denied a sentencing appeal, according to a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals made public this week.

Retired Marine Gunnery Sgt. Randy Linniman, 43, appealed his November 2007 sentencing on the grounds the court used information from his murder trial, in which he was found not guilty, to sentence him to the maximum possible sentence - 14 years - for weapons violations.

Linniman was acquitted of first-degree murder charges in March 2006 of the January 2004 shooting death of retired Marine Master Sgt. Patrick Taulbee. Linniman had been accused of being an accomplice with Ruben Wright Jr. when Wright, who had a relationship with Taulbee's wife, shot Taulbee to death while he was in bed in his Aragona Village home.

Linniman admitted to modifying the rifle and creating a silencer, but denied knowledge of the shooting. Linniman testified he refashioned the gun because Wright, who was Linniman's supervisor in the 6th Marine Regiment, asked him to make the weapon for him to take to Iraq.

Wright, a retired Marine chief warrant officer, was convicted of first-degree murder in Taulbee's killing. He is serving a life sentence.

Zenaida Taulbee, the victim's wife, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. She is serving 32 years in prison.

After Linniman's acquittal, federal authorities charged him with violating federal firearms laws for altering the serial number on the rifle he admitted giving to Wright.

"It seemed in our minds an easy conviction, since Linniman had already admitted to those crimes," said Taulbee's sister, Denise Toth. "It was still a difficult task."

Linniman pleaded guilty in July 2007 to the unlawful transfer of a sawed-off rifle with a silencer and possession of firearms with altered serial numbers, said Robin G. Zier, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice.

Toth said the family was relieved to finally see some justice served, but expressed frustration that Linniman was never convicted in connection with Taulbee's death.

Toth, who lives in Ohio, said she was surprised to see an Onslow County jury give Jihad Melvin life in prison for his role in the 2007 shooting death of 32-year-old Almario Millander. Melvin admitted to driving around Robert Ridges, the man convicted of pulling the trigger on Millander.

"How can the selected citizens of Jacksonville see things so completely different?" Toth asked. "I am curious how those jurors who sat on Linniman's trial feel about Melvin's conviction."

Linniman was sentenced to 14 years in a federal prison in November 2007. He appealed the decision Feb. 19, stating that the court for the Eastern District of North Carolina erred by using information alleged during his murder trial to move his sentencing range higher.

His appeal was denied by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit on March 19. According to the court's ruling just recently made public, "Sentencing courts may take acquitted conduct into account when determining the appropriate sentence because a lower standard of proof applies at the sentencing stage."

Contact crime reporter Lindell Kay at 910-219-8456. Read Lindell's blog at