During his many court appearances, the Keysville man arrested in June for impersonating a U.S. Army combat veteran and stealing an infrared laser sight from Fort Gordon has had little opportunity to explain his actions publicly.
But Monday, before receiving a sentence of nearly five years, Anthony Todd Saxon told the court he never intended to hurt anyone on the day Fort Gordon military police discovered hand grenades, a land mine and several night vision devices in his vehicle.
"I never, never had any kind of malicious intent, ever, to anyone," said Saxon, during a long, sometimes rambling speech in which he repeatedly apologized to his wife, father, children and the U.S. government.
Saxon, 36, claims that he had trouble coming to terms with the fact that his military career was over after he was discharged from the National Guard in 1995 because of heart problems.
"I also want to apologize for dishonoring the U.S. Army by impersonating a soldier," he said. "I know that was wrong. It was very hard for me to let that go."
Because of a plea deal struck with government prosecutors, four of the seven charges against Saxon for the June 15 incident were dropped in exchange for his admission of guilt on charges of impersonating a soldier, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of an unregistered silencer and short-barreled rifle.
Federal sentencing guidelines gave Judge Dudley H. Bowen the discretion to sentence him to between 57 and 71 months for the crime. Bowen chose the low end of the scale and Saxon was given credit for the nearly one year he has been incarcerated.
In pleading for mercy, both Saxon's wife and father noted his fascination with the military. Both seemed conflicted in their thoughts -- at once praising him for his fervent patriotism and also acknowledging the extreme and deceptive actions that it sparked.
Eddie Saxon said he was proud of his son when, as a child, he became an expert on airplanes, tanks and other military equipment.
"He's the only one of my three sons who knew exactly what he wanted to do from the time he was born -- and that's to serve his country," he said.
In the weeks leading up to his arrest, Saxon told his family he was preparing to deploy to Afghanistan on June 17. He had perpetuated a false existence, one in which he continued to work for the Army and was stationed at Fort Gordon.
Both of his older brothers served combat missions in Operation Desert Storm and the current Iraq conflict, according to a detention order filed after his arrest. That fed his obsession, family members told authorities.
When asked whether she had forgiven him for his deception, his wife, Rhonda, paused a moment before replying, "yes."
"His love for the military is absolutely crazy," she said. "It's all he cares about -- thinks about. My son's the same exact way."
Paul Blankenship, of Blankenship Firearms in Grovetown, was visibly angry as he addressed Saxon personally -- calling him a "liar and manipulator and a thief" who "did soil the uniform of the U.S. Army."
Saxon was charged with stealing a custom silencer from Blankenship's store in 2009.
Blankenship said Saxon's actions were to get attention.
"We're all here for you, Todd," Blankenship said, addressing Saxon by his middle name. "Is this the attention you wanted?"
U.S. Attorney Stephen Inman said he believed Saxon was posing as a soldier to steal military equipment and to sell it.
In sentencing Saxon, Bowen said his chief concern was not Saxon's impersonation of a solider, but on the military training grenades, rifles and other guns found at Saxon's home after his arrest.
Saxon was convicted in 1996 of grand theft in Florida and agents from the ATF had warned him in 2005 that he couldn't own firearms because of his criminal record.
Like the others who spoke Monday, Bowen weighed in on the reasoning behind Saxon's actions, adding that he suspected it had something to do with a "misguided search for self-respect."