East St. Louis Man Pleads Guilty to Firearms and Drug Charges
On March 2, 2012, James T. Keel, a forty-five year old East St. Louis, IL, man pled guilty in federal district court to (Count 1) Possession With Intent to Distribute Cocaine Base (Crack) and (Count 2) Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by a Previously Convicted Felon, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Stephen R. Wigginton, announced today. Keel is scheduled to be sentenced at 10:00 a.m. on June 7, 2012, at which time he faces 5 to 40 years in prison, a fine of up to $2,000,000, at least 4 years supervised release and a $100 special assessment on Count 1; and up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, not more than 3 years supervised release, and a $100 special assessment on Count 2.
On July 31, 2011, law enforcement officers conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle driven by Keel in East St. Louis, Illinois. After these officers noticed Keel attempting to reach into the center console of the vehicle, they asked for consent to search the vehicle. During the ensuing search, an officer lifted the lid off of the broken center console and discovered a loaded pistol, a large bag of crack cocaine, and several small bags of powder cocaine and cannabis. Illinois State Police lab analysis revealed the substance recovered from the larger bag to contain approximately 35 grams of cocaine base, in the form of crack cocaine. Keel admitted that he had knowingly possessed and handled the bag of crack cocaine, as well as the firearm, a Hi-Point, Model JCP, .40 S&W caliber semi-automatic pistol. Keel acknowledged that he was a convicted felon.
The case resulted from the efforts of the WAVE (Working Against Violent Elements) Task Force, which focuses its efforts on combating violent crime in East St. Louis, Washington Park, and surrounding communities. WAVE was formed in November, 2009, and is a collaboration of law enforcement officers from the Illinois State Police, the Metropolitan Enforcement Group of Southwestern Illinois (MEGSI), the East St. Louis Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. The WAVE Task Force receives financial support through the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) initiative, a nationwide federal program which endeavors to address gun-related violence.
This case is assigned to Assistant United States Attorney Daniel T. Kapsak for prosecution.