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Conspirators face firearms charge

A white supremacist couple who plotted to blow up Jewish and black landmarks in Boston could face longer prison sentences following an appeals court's ruling yesterday that they should have been convicted of a related firearms charge.

A jury convicted Leo Felton and his girlfriend, Erica Chase, of a charge that a pistol in their possession was part of their bomb-making conspiracy. The judge who presided over their 2002 trial set aside that verdict, saying the charge was ''more of a stretch than I thought."

But the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit sided with the jury yesterday, reinstating the guilty verdicts and ordering Felton and Chase to be resentenced by US District Court Judge Nancy Gertner.

''The risk created by the defendants' possession of the gun was real enough to permit a jury to convict," the appeals court said in its ruling. ''Except in the extreme case, this is the kind of call properly left to the jury."

The firearms charge carries a mandatory sentence of five years in prison. Gertner, however, isn't required to hand down longer sentences to Felton and Chase because she can take all of their convictions into account, said Chase's lawyer, Timothy Watkins.

Felton was sentenced to almost 22 years in prison after he was convicted of charges that included bank robbery and conspiracy to rob an armored car, part of a plot that prosecutors said was designed ''to ignite a racial holy war."

Gertner sentenced Chase to four years and nine months in prison.

Chase already has been released from prison, according to Watkins.

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