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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Georgia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, January 8, 2021

Federal Hearings Held This Week In Separate Project Guardian Cases

Project Guardian is DOJ’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence, gun crime

MACON, Ga. – Federal hearings were conducted this week in two separate Project Guardian cases, said Peter D. Leary, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia.

On Wednesday, January 6, in U.S. District Court, Athens, U.S. District Judge C. Ashley Royal sentenced Preston Davis, 37, of Athens, to serve 37 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, after Davis pleaded guilty to one count possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. There is no parole in the federal system. Jonathan Kunz, 44, of Valdosta, pleaded guilty to one count possession of a firearm by a prohibited person before U.S. District Judge Louis Sands in U.S. District Court, Albany. Kunz faces a maximum ten years imprisonment, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing has not been scheduled. There is no parole in the federal system.

“Felons who get caught with guns will face the possibility of federal prison without parole,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Leary. “I want to thank our local, state and federal law enforcement partners for their continued crime reduction efforts across the Middle District of Georgia.”

On May 16, 2019, officers executed a search warrant at a residence in Athens. Davis was located in the residence, and officers found two semi-automatic pistols, as well as ammunition, a magazine with ammunition, drugs and drug paraphernalia. Davis, who was previously convicted of a felony, admitted that he knew he was a prohibited person when he possessed the firearms.

On August 20, 2018, officers legally searched Kunz’s residence in Valdosta and found a double barrel 12-gauge shotgun and a gym bag containing a large quantity of ammunition and a magazine. Kunz was prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition because of a prior conviction for distribution of methamphetamine in the Superior Court of Lowndes County, Georgia.

The investigation was conducted as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

This case is also part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Initiated by the Attorney General in the fall of 2019, Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensures that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities. For more information about Project Guardian, please see https://www.justice.gov/projectguardian.

The Davis investigation was conducted by the Athens-Clarke County Police Department, the Northeast Regional Drug Task Force and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly S. Easterling prosecuted the case for the Government. The Kunz investigation was conducted by the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office, FBI and ATF. Assistant U.S. Attorney Leah McEwen is prosecuting the case for the Government. Questions can be directed to Pamela Lightsey, Public Information Officer, United States Attorney’s Office, at (478) 621-2603 or Melissa Hodges, Public Affairs Director (Contractor), United States Attorney’s Office, at (478) 765-2362.

Updated January 8, 2021