Announced by United States Attorney Joseph H. Hogsett 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. As part of the VCI, the U.S. Attorney's Office has redoubled efforts to federally prosecute individuals who illegally possess and distribute firearms throughout central and southern Indiana.
"Two years ago, the U.S. Attorney's Office was prosecuting just one illegally-armed felon a month," Hogsett said. "Last year under our Violent Crime Initiative, we increased that number to nearly ten prosecutions a month. And today, I am pleased to announce more results in this ongoing effort to combat violent crime here in the Evansville area and throughout southwestern Indiana."
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 more than 110 last year. The collective criminal histories of the defendants charged accounted for hundreds of prior felonies committed in central and southern Indiana.
Already in 2012, more than one-hundred federal firearms charges have been filed against defendants across the state of Indiana, and the number of defendants sentenced for gun crimes this year is approaching an all-time high.
Those charged by indictment today include the following defendants:
Stedman Baird, age 23, of Newburgh – felon in possession of a firearm.
Jackie J. Whittley, Jr., age 32, of Mt. Vernon – felon in possession of a firearm, possession of an unregistered firearm (sawed-off shotgun).
Michael White, age 54, of Evansville – felon in possession of a firearm.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Lauren Wheatley, a former Vanderburgh County deputy prosecutor who is spearheading these cases for the government, all of the defendants face a possible penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for each firearms offense. In each case, an initial hearing will be scheduled before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Evansville.
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