In the last two years, the United States Attorney's Office and other federal agencies have placed a renewed emphasis on their efforts in Evansville and throughout Southwestern Indiana. These efforts include the creation of an Evansville-based federal grand jury, the appointment of the first Evansville-based leadership within the U.S. Attorney's Office, and the creation of a Violent Crime Initiative aimed at using federal resources to assist local law enforcement in prosecuting violent, habitual offenders.
On Friday, US Attorney Joseph Hogsett, announced the federal indictment of Robert J. Kester, age 29, of Posey County, on charges that he illegally possessed a .380 caliber semi-automatic pistol after having been convicted of numerous felonies. Those past convictions include 2009 charges in Posey County for dealing methamphetamine, as well as a 2006 charge of resisting law enforcement in Vanderburgh County.
"Our Violent Crime Initiative aims to do one thing, and one thing only: take the worst of the worst off the streets of southwestern Indiana," Hogsett said. "This latest conviction reiterates our dedication to stamping out violent crime through the aggressive federal prosecution of repeat, violent offenders. Just as important, it also represents the first indictment as a result of our expanded prosecution team here in Evansville."
Announced in March of 2011, the Violent Crime Initiative (VCI) represents a district-wide strategy to work with local law enforcement and county prosecutors to combat drug traffickers and criminals that use and carry firearms in their illegal activities. In the first nine months of the initiative, the VCI produced a dramatic increase in the number of gun-related charges brought federally – from just 14 felony possession charges in 2010 to 103 last year.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lauren Wheatley and Todd Shellenbarger, who are prosecuting the case for the government, on January 8, 2012, law enforcement found Kester to be in possession of a semi-automatic .380 caliber pistol. As a convicted felon, Kester had no legal right to possess that weapon. If convicted, he could face up to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
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