Attorney General Jeff Sessions recognized 202 department employees for their distinguished public service today at the 65nd Annual Attorney General’s Awards Ceremony, including 5 individuals from the Middle District of Florida. This annual ceremony recognizes individuals for their outstanding service and dedication to carrying out the missions of the Department of Justice.
Assistant United States Attorneys Christopher Murray, Natalie Hirt Adams, and Administrative Specialist Abbey Hicks, Special Agents Yannick J. Deslauriers and Melinda G. Sears from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, along with Trial Attorney Marty Ann Woelfle from the Organized Crime and Gang Section, were recognized for their outstanding achievements in the case of United States v. Nathaniel Harris, et al.
“Today’s recognition of members of our office, DOJ’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is well-deserved,” said U.S. Attorney Muldrow. “As a result of their combined, tireless efforts over two years, a violent criminal gang was brought to justice. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners and the community to reduce crime throughout our district.”
Between April 2014 and September 2016, this team successfully investigated and prosecuted six leaders of the most violent gang in Manatee County. For nearly a decade, the Harris defendants operated an extremely violent racketeering enterprise. The gang’s violence culminated on August 1, 2013, when two defendants stormed a youth football practice and gunned down Coach Brenton Coleman, killing him in front of 300 children and their parents. The recipients prosecuted the six defendants in a 28-count racketeering indictment involving charges for seven murders, one attempted murder, and two armed kidnappings, among many other crimes. Additionally, the team worked feverishly to prepare over 150 witnesses and over 1,800 exhibits for trial. Through the course of a grueling three-month trial that began on June 6, 2016, the recipients excelled in the complex task of persuasively presenting the testimony of cooperating defendants and other witnesses, coupled with physical, forensic, and electronic evidence. The team’s work resulted in the conviction of all six defendants and sentences ranging from 120 years to multiple life sentences.
The Harris case was one of the most complex and successful violent crime prosecutions in the history of the Middle District of Florida. Furthermore, the professionalism, dedication, and devotion to duty of the recipients are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Department of Justice.