News and Press Releases

Repeat Offender was Arrested with Firearm at Traffic Stop

June 25, 2009

ROBERT JAMES BURKETT, 38, of Hoquiam, Grays Harbor County, Washington, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 180 months (15 years) in prison and five years of supervised release after being found to be an Armed Career Criminal under federal law. United States District Judge Ronald B. Leighton imposed the prison term saying, “You have worked hard to get here. Now you have to pay the price.”

According to filings in the case, BURKETT was arrested in May 2008, following a traffic stop on State Route 12 near the Wynoochee Bridge. BURKETT was a passenger in the car which was pulled over by the Washington State Patrol for speeding. When BURKETT was checked for weapons, the Trooper found a loaded .380 caliber firearm in his coat pocket. BURKETT is a convicted felon and therefore is prohibited from possessing a firearm.

BURKETT was found guilty of Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon following a stipulated bench trial. In a stipulated bench trial the facts are agreed upon by both the prosecution and defense. Judge Ronald B. Leighton found BURKETT guilty on April 1, 2009.

At the plea hearing today Assistant United States Attorney Gregory A. Gruber submitted to the court the prior violent felonies that qualify BURKETT as an Armed Career Criminal. These convictions include a 1988 First Degree Robbery conviction from Pierce County, Washington. BURKETT entered a Tacoma home and assaulted and robbed the residents. In 1993 BURKETT was convicted of Residential Burglary when he broke into a home and using a knife, assaulted the victim in his bed. A second conviction in 1993 is for First Degree Robbery – BURKETT broke into a home and held the couple at gunpoint while stealing money, jewelry and the family car. In 1998 BURKETT was again convicted of Residential Burglary and in 1997 he was convicted of Unlawful Possession of a Short Barreled Firearm.

At the sentencing hearing, Judge Leighton spoke directly to the defendant, who claimed that his prior convictions were not violent and that he never meant to hurt anyone during his previous crimes. “You have been persistently wrong,” Judge Leighton replied. “I would not want to wake up with a gun pointed at my head,” as had happened in one of BURKETT’s prior crimes. “Residential burglary, even if the house is unoccupied at the time, feels like violence” to the victims, Judge Leighton said, and can always turn violent if the residents return home while the burglars are still there. In responding to the defense argument that the mandatory fifteen year sentence was too much, Judge Leighton said, “When you back yourself into a corner” with a violent criminal record like BURKETT’s, “the next shoe that drops may be a really heavy one.”

BURKETT was prosecuted as part of the Project Safe Neighborhoods program. Unveiled in May 2001, Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), 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 Grays Harbor County-- has fostered close partnerships between federal, state and local prosecutors and law enforcement.

The case was investigated by the Washington State Patrol (WSP) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF).

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Gregory A. Gruber.

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

Return to Top

USAO Homepage
USAO Briefing Room
Justice 101
Community Outreach

Engaging in outreach in order to prevent crime, respond to community needs, and promote good citizenship.

Victim Witness Assistance

Making sure that victims of federal crimes are treated with compassion, fairness and respect

Project Safe Neighborhoods

Our nation-wide commitment to reducing gun crime in America

Oficinas de los Fiscales de Estados Unidos En Español
Stay Connected with Twitter