(STL.News) – Acting United States Attorney A. Lance Crick announced today that Gregory Bernard Gibson, 44, of Florence, was sentenced to nearly 22 years in federal prison after being convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances following a 2-day jury trial. The case arose from a traffic stop conducted by deputies with the Florence County Sheriff’s Office’s (FCSO) Proactive Community Enforcement (PACE) Team.
Evidence presented at trial showed that on July 27, 2018, the PACE Team was patrolling a high-crime area on the east side of Florence when Gibson’s vehicle pulled out in front of a deputy’s unmarked vehicle, failing to yield the right-of-way. The deputy initiated a traffic stop on Gibson’s car based on the traffic violation. When he approached the car, the deputy immediately smelled the odor of marijuana, and Gibson stated that he had a small, personal-use quantity of the substance in his vehicle.
Based on the odor of marijuana, deputies searched the car. Once inside, they found what amounted to a mobile drug distribution center. There was a loaded, .45 caliber Glock semi-automatic pistol in the center console. Federal law prohibits Gibson from possessing a firearm based on several prior federal and state convictions for drugs and other offenses. Directly behind the center console and in front of a child car seat, deputies found a backpack containing distribution quantities of powder cocaine, crack cocaine, and marijuana; a bottle of a “cutting agent” drug dealers mix with drugs before they are sold to increase the amount the user thinks he is buying; multiple plastic baggies used to package drugs for sale; and a digital scale containing cocaine and marijuana residue.
Hidden inside a void underneath the cup holder area, deputies found a large piece of crack cocaine and 300 tablets of methamphetamine. After assimilating the large quantity of drugs and firearm evidence, the PACE team partnered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to bring the case to federal court for prosecution.
United States District Judge Mary G. Lewis of Columbia sentenced Gibson to 262 months in federal prison, to be followed by a six-year term of court-ordered supervision. There is no parole in the federal system.
“Across South Carolina, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is partnering with local law enforcement agencies to focus on the career criminals, like Mr. Gibson, who pose the greatest threat to our safety,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Crick. “We are grateful to Sheriff Barnes, the Florence County Sheriff’s Office PACE Team, and ATF for their continued efforts to reduce violent crime in our community.”
“This agency has a long and proud history of cooperation with our state and federal law enforcement partners to protect our communities from the scourge of illegal narcotics,” Sheriff Billy Barnes stated. “We deeply appreciate the splendid efforts of the ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to help us remove dangerous criminals from our streets.”
The PACE team is a specially trained group of deputies that operates under the umbrella of the Special Operations division of the FCSO. PACE team deputies are tasked with patrolling high-crime areas of Florence County and engaging with individuals who present a higher-than-normal risk to the community, such as drug dealers and violent criminals. PACE team members also work alongside federal partners to bring cases to federal court when they involve career criminals or especially significant crimes. Through dedicating resources to specialized groups such as the PACE Team, the FCSO is able to be an effective partner with federal agencies.
This case was prosecuted as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.
Assistant United States Attorneys Lauren Hummel and Everett McMillian of the Florence office prosecuted the case.