Today, the Department of Justice announced that it has charged more than 14,200 defendants with federal firearms-related crimes during Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, despite the challenges of COVID-19 and its impact on the criminal justice process. Federal firearms cases have been a Department priority since November 2019 when Attorney General William P. Barr announced his commitment to investigating, prosecuting, and combatting gun crimes as a critical part of the Department’s anti-violent crime strategy.
“The number one priority of government is to keep its citizens safe,” said Attorney General Barr. “By preventing firearms from falling into the hands of individuals who are prohibited from having them, we can stop violent crime before it happens. Violating federal firearms laws is a serious crime and offenders face serious consequences. The Justice Department is committed to investigating and prosecuting individuals who illegally buy, sell, use, or possess firearms. Reducing gun violence requires a coordinated effort, and we could not have charged more than 14,000 individuals with firearms-related crimes without the hard work of the dedicated law enforcement professionals at the ATF, our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country, and especially all of our state and local law enforcement partners.”
In the Northern District of Ohio, 328 defendants have been charged by federal prosecutors in FY 2020, announced U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman.
“Each and every illegal firearm we can remove from the hands of a criminal helps to reduce violent crime and makes our communities throughout Northern Ohio safer,” said U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman. “Thanks to the tireless work of law enforcement and our federal partners, and initiatives such as Operation Legend, we are able to hold accountable those who illegally possess or purchase a firearm.”
Under federal law, it is illegal to possess a firearm if you fall into one of nine prohibited categories including, being a felon, illegal alien, or unlawful user of a controlled substance. Further, it is unlawful to possess a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense or violent crime.
It is also illegal to purchase – or even to attempt to illegally purchase – firearms if the buyer is a prohibited person or illegally purchasing a firearm on behalf of others. Lying on ATF Form 4473, which is used to lawfully purchase a firearm, is also a federal offense.
“Protecting the public from violent crime involving firearms is at the core of ATF’s mission,” commented ATF Acting Director Regina Lombardo. “Every day the men and women of ATF pursue and investigate those who use firearms to commit violent crimes in our communities, many of whom are prohibited from possessing firearms from previous convictions. ATF, in collaboration with the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the nation, is committed to bringing these offenders to justice for their egregious and violent criminal acts.”
The Department is committed to prosecuting these firearms offenses as well as using all modern technologies available to law enforcement such as the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, known as NIBIN, to promote gun crime intelligence. Keeping illegal firearms out of the hands of violent criminals will continue to be a priority and the Department will use all appropriate, available means to keep law-abiding people safe from gun crime.
Notable federal firearms prosecutions from the past fiscal year include:
Sydney Mullens, age 37, of Conneaut. Mullens pleaded guilty to one count of felon in possession of a firearm in July of 2020 and was sentenced before Judge James S. Gwin to 100 months imprisonment. During a search of the vehicle that Mullens was operating, police officers found in her possession a semiautomatic shotgun and three lever-action rifles. Mullens was prohibited from possessing a firearm due to a previous felony conviction of burglary in 2008. Mullens had also previously been convicted of burglary and assault of a Peace Officer.
Jaquar Keyshoure Latimer, age 43, of Akron. Latimer was found guilty during a jury trial of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possession of firearms as a convicted felon on August 23, 2020 and was sentenced before Judge Sara Lioi to 199 months imprisonment. Latimer, while on supervised release from federal prison after serving a sentence for a conviction of felon in possession of a firearm, was found in possession of several firearms and drugs. Latimer was prohibited from possessing a firearm due to previous convictions of being a felon in possession of a firearm, sexual battery, aggravated assault, and drug possession.
Tyrone Hoskins, age 30, of Toledo. Hoskins pleaded guilty to one count of felon in possession of a firearm in November of 2019 and was sentenced before Judge James G. Carr to 63 months imprisonment. Hoskins, a leader of a street gang in Toledo, was found in possession of a .50 caliber rifle and silencer. Hoskins was prohibited from possessing a firearm due to a previous felony conviction of reckless homicide.
In Cleveland, in response to the rise in violent crime involving drug and firearms offenses, Operation Legend was announced on July 29, 2020.
Elsewhere, Operation Red-Zone was launched in various cities in the Northern District over the Labor Day holiday weekend to help prevent and prosecute violent crime involving firearms.
For more information on the lawful purchasing of firearms, please see: https://www.atf.gov/qa-category/atf-form-4473.