US Attorney: 3 facing gun charges thanks to Violent Crime Initia - Tri-State News, Weather & Sports

US Attorney: 3 facing gun charges thanks to Violent Crime Initiative

U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett

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.

  • It is alleged that on November 1, 2012, Baird was found by Warrick County law enforcement to be in possession of an Astra Unceta, .380 caliber handgun. Baird is not legally entitled to possess a firearm due to past felony convictions in Vanderburgh County for a variety of offenses, including burglary and theft (February 2010), failure to return to detention (March 2010), and possession of marijuana (July 2011).

Jackie J. Whittley, Jr., age 32, of Mt. Vernon – felon in possession of a firearm, possession of an unregistered firearm (sawed-off shotgun).

  • On August 9, 2012, it is alleged that Posey County law enforcement found Whittley to be in possession of two firearms – a Hipoint, Model 994, 9 caliber rifle, as well as a Remington, model 870, 12 gauge shotgun. Whittley is not legally entitled to possess a firearm due to past convictions in Clark County for failing to return to detention (May 2010), receiving stolen property (April 2009), and burglary (May 2009). In addition, the shotgun allegedly had a barrel length of less than 18-inches, which is in violation of federal law.

Michael White, age 54, of Evansville – felon in possession of a firearm.

  • It is alleged that on November 7, 2012, White was found by Vanderburgh County law enforcement to possess a Hipoint 9mm pistol as well as a Ruger .357 pistol. White was also allegedly found with shotgun ammunition. White is not legally entitled to possess a firearm or ammunition due to a prior federal felony conviction for conspiring to possess methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.

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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