News and Press Releases

Repeat Offender Arrested During Traffic Stop with Stolen Gun and Drugs in Car

May 5, 2006

RAILEN JAINI WHEELER, 31, of Seattle, Washington, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 92 months in prison and 3 years of supervised release for being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton told WHEELER, “when someone has amassed this type of criminal history” the Court’s responsibility “must be to protect the community.”

According to court records, on October 25, 2005, WHEELER was stopped by a Tacoma Police Officer for speeding. The officer discovered outstanding warrants for WHEELER’s arrest. During a pat down search, the officer discovered WHEELER was armed with a stolen Smith and Wesson .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol. Marijuana and PCP were found in WHEELER’s car as well.

In asking for a lengthy sentence, Assistant United States Attorney Tessa Gorman wrote to the court that WHEELER had eleven prior convictions over the last ten years – most of them involving guns and drugs. In January 1994, WHEELER was convicted of Possessing an Unlicensed Pistol in a Vehicle. Just a few months later he was arrested in connection with drug dealing at a convenience store. In 1996 and 1997, he was again arrested for weapons violations. In 1997, he was sentenced to 21 months in prison for selling crack cocaine. WHEELER was armed with a loaded pistol at the time of his arrest.

WHEELER’s criminal behavior escalated in 2000. He was sentenced to nine months in prison for pointing a gun at a taxi driver’s head. In 2002, and again in 2004, WHEELER was arrested following traffic stops with drugs and guns in his car. On one occasion WHEELER led police on a high speed chase, crashed his car and had to be cut from the vehicle by rescue crews. As Gorman noted in her sentencing memo, “What is striking about the defendant’s history is that his reckless behavior has escalated to where innocent individuals, like a taxi driver just doing his job or citizens driving their cars, going about their business, are put at grave danger because of the defendant’s conduct.”

WHEELER was prosecuted as part of the Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) program. Unveiled by President George W. Bush in May 2001, Project Safe Neighborhoods is a comprehensive and strategic approach to gun law enforcement. PSN is a nationwide commitment to reduce gun crime in America by networking both new and existing local programs that target gun crime and then providing them with the resources and tools they need to succeed. Implementation at the local level -- in this case, in Pierce County -- has fostered close partnerships between federal, state and local prosecutors and law enforcement.

The case was investigated by the Tacoma Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tessa Gorman, who leads the Project Safe Neighborhood’s prosecutions for the Western District of Washington.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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