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RALEIGH, NC (AP) — A federal judge has overturned the conviction of a North Carolina man sent to prison after he was wrongly charged as a felon for possessing firearms. It was the first of what could be as many as 3,000 inmates with similar convictions set aside.

Federal law makes it a crime for anyone with a felony record to have a gun. But federal prosecutors wrongly interpreted North Carolina’s sentencing laws and charged people with firearms possession – even if their past offenses weren’t serious enough to qualify them as felons under federal law.

U.S. District Judge James Fox on Thursday overturned the 2009 firearms conviction of Terrell McCullum of Elizabethtown, N.C., declaring him innocent.

McCullum had already been released from prison last month after serving his full sentence.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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