News and Press Releases

EAST ST. LOUIS MEN DETAINED ON GUN CHARGES INVOLVING ASSAULT-TYPE FIREARMS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 16, 2011

The United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Stephen R. Wigginton, announced today that in court orders issued September 15, 2011, Pierre Knowles, Jr., 22, and Jonathan Q. Franklin, 20, were detained pending trial; Cornell J. Eiland, 21, was ordered to home detention pending trial; Lee Marvin Matthews, 19, was released on a $10,000 bond, while Ceontae D. Matthews, 19, has requested release for medical reasons. A federal Magistrate Judge has yet to rule on Ceontae Matthews’ request. Trial for all five East St. Louis residents is set for November 14, 2011, in District Court in East St. Louis.

According to testimony presented by an ATF agent at a detention hearing held on September 14, the incidents leading to federal charges allegedly occurred on September 5, 2011. The testimony revealed that Centerville police officers initially stopped a vehicle driven by Pierre Knowles, Jr., after he ran a stop sign. One of the officers saw in plain view a Norinco SKS semi-automatic rifle in the lap of Ceontae Matthews, who was one of the rear seat passengers; the other rear seat passenger was Cornell Eiland. The officer ordered the occupants out of the vehicle, and a further search led to the discovery of a Masterpiece Arms 9 mm semi-automatic pistol lying on the rear seat floor. Both the rifle and the pistol are commonly referred to as assault-type weapons. Further investigation revealed that the pistol had been stolen.

The traffic stop occurred within a school zone – that is, within 1000 feet of a school; federal law forbids possession of firearms within 1000 feet of a school (there are exceptions to this provision, but they are not applicable in this case).

The Centerville officers also heard an East St. Louis police dispatcher provide information indicating that a vehicle of the same description as that driven by Knowles had been involved in a shooting incident at the Roosevelt housing complex in East St. Louis.

The ATF agent also testified that witnesses later confirmed that the driver of the vehicle had fired several shots in the direction of a crowd of about 50 people in the Roosevelt housing complex. Five empty 9 mm. casings were later recovered by ATF agents in the area where the shooting occurred; nine other live rounds were in the seized pistol. Knowles later admitted to the ATF agents that he had fired the gun. No one was hurt as a result of the shooting.

The ATF agent also testified that Franklin admitted that he had provided both guns to the other defendants. Franklin was previously convicted of a felony, Aggravated Unlawful Use of a Firearm, in 2010. He was sentenced by St. Clair County Judge Eckert to 2 years’ probation on that charge, and was on probation at the time of the Roosevelt shooting.

The ATF agent also testified that the shooting incident occurred after Ceontae Matthews received a phone call from his mother, indicating that an altercation had occurred at her home. In response, according to the agent, Matthews said that he would kill whoever caused the altercation.

The ATF agent also testified that Ceontae Matthews and his brother, Lee Matthews, and Cornell Eiland all admitted in interviews with ATF agents that they were long-time and frequent users of controlled substances.

The ATF agent also testified that Lee Matthews initially lied to agents, claiming that he had never possessed the Norinco firearm referenced in the Indictment. However, Matthews ultimately admitted that in August, 2011, he had obtained both firearms from Franklin and possessed them for awhile before returning them to Franklin.

An Indictment is a formal charge against a defendant; it does not represent a finding of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent until found guilty by a jury of his peers. Allegations in an Indictment are simply allegations until proven in a Court by competent evidence.

The case was investigated by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and officers of the Centerville Police Department. A WAVE team also assisted in the apprehension of Jonathan Franklin and Lee Matthews. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen B. Clark.

 

 

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