Savannah, Ga; Sentences, multiple indictments highlight Project Guardian

Savannah, Ga; Sentences, multiple indictments highlight Project Guardian’s collaborative law enforcement strategy

(STL.News) – Two men have been sentenced to prison and more than a dozen defendants charged in separate cases in the Southern District of Georgia relating to illegal possession of firearms.

While many of the charges target drug trafficking, all of the indictments include previously convicted felons who are prohibited from possessing firearms, several of them on felony probation for state charges at the time of their arrest, said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.  The sentences and indictments are under the umbrella of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice initiative targeting illegal firearms, and in coordination with the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives (ATF).

“We continue to make our community safer by identifying and removing offenders who illegally possess and use firearms,” said U.S. Attorney Christine. “Along with our law enforcement partners, we are committed to keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.”

Two men were sentenced to federal prison for crimes involving illegal firearms possession:

Janard James Coney, 26, of Port Wentworth, was sentenced to the maximum 120 months in prison by U.S. District Court Judge R. Stan Baker after pleading guilty to Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.  Coney, while on state probation for a domestic assault charge, was arrested in July 2019 after fleeing from a Port Wentworth home where he was reported as trespassing.  He was later found hiding in the attic of his mother’s residence, and also faces multiple state charges.
James Chapman, 31, of Savannah, was sentenced to 78 months in federal prison by U.S. District Court Judge William T.  Moore Jr. after pleading guilty to Possession of a Stolen Firearm.  Chapman, who has multiple prior convictions on state felony charges, was found in possession of a pistol after his arrest in August 2019 by Pooler Police.

Those named in federal indictments from the September term of the U.S. District Court grand jury include:

  • Treyvious Jean Baptiste, 29, of Birmingham, Ala., charged with Possession With Intent to Distribute Fentanyl and Eutylone (Bath Salts); Possession With Intent to Distribute Cocaine, Crack Cocaine and Marijuana; Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime; and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.  The charges are a result of a items found in Baptiste’s vehicle during a May 2, 2020 traffic stop in Laurens County by Laurens County Sheriff’s deputies, and a May 19, 2020 Georgia State Patrol investigation into Baptiste’s crash of his car in Laurens County.  Baptiste faces a sentence of up to life in prison
  • Maurice Diggs, 41, of Augusta, charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine, Heroin and Marijuana; Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime; and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.  Diggs was implicated when Richmond County Sheriff’s deputies found drugs, cash, and drug distribution paraphernalia, along with four firearms, during a search of an apartment where Diggs was present.  Diggs faces up to 40 years in prison
  • David Alexander Harris, 40, of Augusta, charged with Possession with Intention to Distribute Eutylone (Bath Salts) and Cocaine; Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime; and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon. Harris, who faces up to 40 years in prison, came to the attention of Richmond County Sheriff’s deputies in March 2020 when he was discovered with a pistol in his lap while asleep behind the wheel of a vehicle at a traffic light
  • William Austin Hunter, 24, of Martinez, Ga., charged with Possession of an Unregistered Firearm and Possession of a Firearm by a Prohibited Person; and Patrick Allen Scott, 27, of Martinez, Ga., charged with Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.  Columbia County Sheriff’s deputies went to Hunter’s residence in February 2020 while investigating a drive-by shooting at another location.  As deputies were questioning Hunter, they noticed Scott climbing over a backyard fence while in possession of a bag containing a sawed-off shotgun, an SKS rifle, ammunition and magazines.  A search of the residence discovered another sawed-off shotgun, a shortened rifle and a pistol.  Each of the charges carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison
  • Michael Jerry Nasworthy, 30, of Martinez, Ga., and Ivey Elizabeth Clements, 26, of Martinez, Ga., both charged with Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine, and Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine. Nasworthy also is charged with Possession of Ammunition by a Convicted Felon.  Nasworthy and Clements were both on probation for prior state felony convictions and subject to search when officers from the Georgia Department of Community Supervision visited their residence along with agents from the ATF. Both were taken into custody when the search discovered drugs and bullets.  The charges carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison
  • Letrail Jerome West, 42, of Augusta, charged with Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Distribute; Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime; and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.  West was arrested by Richmond County Sheriff’s deputies in July 2019 after he fled from an attempted traffic stop.  In a subsequent search of his hotel room, investigators found drugs and an SKS rifle with a high-capacity magazine.  Because of prior felony convictions on state charges involving narcotics, West faces up to 30 years in prison
  • Carlos Terrell Keith, 29, of Augusta, charged with Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.  Richmond County Sheriff’s deputies found Keith in possession of a pistol during an August 2019 traffic stop.  He faces up to 10 years in prison
  • Devonta Armon Stallings, 27, of Augusta, charged with Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.  Richmond County Sheriff’s deputies spotted Stallings when he ran from a group loitering in a known drug area and tossed a pistol before being captured.  Stallings, who was on state probation at the time of his arrest, faces up to 10 years in prison
  •  Travis Dennon Palmer, 29, of Savannah, charged with Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.  Palmer was arrested in March 2019 when the Savannah Police Department and U.S. Marshals searched for him in a section of apartments while responding to a report of a man with a gun. Palmer was taken into custody after falling through an attic ceiling, and officers found three firearms.  Palmer faces up to 10  years in prison
  • Delvon Brown, 34, of Savannah, charged with Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon in September 2019 after Savannah Police officers found him in possession of a pistol during a traffic stop and brief foot chase.  Brown, who was on probation on a state conviction for illegal firearms possession, faces up to 10 years in prison
  • Sundiadaa Miller, 32, of Savannah, charged with Possession of Firearm by a Convicted Felon. Miller was arrested in January 2020 by Savannah Police officers.  The charge carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
  • Matthew Moore, 30, of Savannah, charged with Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.  Moore was arrested in June 2019 after running from Savannah Police officers responding to a report of an armed man threatening people at a hotel.  He was found in possession of a bag containing three pistols, and faces up to 10 years in prison
  • Darryl Kinloch, 29, of Savannah, charged in February 2020 when Savannah Police officers found two pistols in his car during a traffic stop.  He faces up to 10 years in prison
  • Darnell Miller, 21, of Savannah, charged with Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.  Miller was arrested in September 2019 when Savannah Police officers found him in possession of a pistol during a traffic stop.  Miller faces up to 10 years in prison

In another firearms-related case, Christian Eduardo Flores-Garcia, 31, of Honduras, is charged by Information with Possession of a Firearm by an Illegal Alien, and with Illegal Reentry After Deportation.  Flores-Garcia was arrested after a traffic stop in January 2020 by Richmond County Sheriff’s deputies investigating a disturbance at a restaurant.  Flores-Garcia has been deported from the United States on two prior occasions, and faces up to 10 years in prison.

Criminal indictments and Informations contain only charges; defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

“The value of these types of cases can be measured in human lives,” said Beau Kolodka, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Division of the ATF.  “These cases involve illegally possessed firearms in the hands of criminals.  They demonstrate the cooperation that exists between ATF and our state, local and federal law enforcement partners.”

The cases are investigated under Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws, and the Prosecutor to Prosecutor Program (P3), in which federal and state prosecutors collaborate to determine the most appropriate venue for prosecuting crimes.

In addition to the ATF, agencies involved in investigation of the cases include the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Georgia State Patrol, the Georgia Department of Community Supervision, the Savannah Police Department, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office, and the Port Wentworth Police Department.

The cases are being investigated for the United States by Southern District U.S. Attorney’s Office Assistant U.S. Attorneys including Project Guardian Coordinator Henry W. Syms; Alejandro V. Pascual IV; Marcela C. Mateo; Joseph McCool; Joshua S. Bearden; Patricia G. Rhodes; Channell Singh; Steven Lee; Tara Lyons; Jennifer Stanley; and Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys Darron Hubbard, Edwin Caban and Noah Abrams.

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