Guilty Verdict in Athens Trial Resulting from Federal Investigation into Armed Career Criminals Trafficking Firearms, Controlled Substances
ATHENS, Ga. – An Athens resident with a lengthy criminal history was found guilty by a federal jury yesterday evening of multiple charges related to an FBI Middle Georgia Safe Streets Gang Task Force undercover operation into illegal gun and drug trafficking. His conviction follows a co-defendant entering a guilty plea last week in this case.
Robert Booker Sr., 44, of Atlanta, Georgia, was convicted of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, possession with intent to distribute alprazolam, possession with intent to distribute oxycodone and possession with intent to distribute marijuana. The verdict was reached following a two-day trial that began on Monday, Aug. 15 before U.S. District Judge C. Ashley Royal. Booker is an Armed Career Criminal and a Career Offender and faces a maximum lifetime of imprisonment for his crimes. Peter Deandra Lawrence, 47, of Athens, pleaded guilty to illegal possession of a firearm on Aug. 11; as an Armed Career Criminal and a Career Offender, Lawrence faces a minimum of 15 years up to a maximum lifetime in prison for his crime. Co-defendant Gerrick Lanier Cooper, 47, of Watkinsville, Georgia, pleaded guilty to distribution of cocaine on May 11. Cooper faces a maximum of 20 years in prison to be followed by at least three years of supervised release and a $1,000,000 fine. Sentencing for these defendants has not been scheduled.
“Armed Career Criminals trafficking weapons and dangerous controlled substances will be held accountable at the federal level for crimes that undermine the safety of our communities,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. “Our office is working alongside federal, state and local law enforcement to bring the most violent and repeat offenders to justice for their continued criminal activities.”
“Booker refused to learn from his past mistakes and continued to possess firearms and illegal drugs. Now that a jury has passed judgement, our citizens will be safer while he spends significant time in prison,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “The FBI is proud to work with our partners in the Middle Georgia Safe Streets Gang Task Force to remove career criminals from our streets.”
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, the case began when two FBI confidential informants (CI) purchased a .22 caliber rifle from Lawrence in Watkinsville, Georgia, on Aug. 17, 2016. Lawrence negotiated the purchase of the firearm with Cooper over his cellphone in the presence of the informants and retrieved the firearm from Cooper to give to the CIs at the close of the deal. Lawrence has previously been convicted of aggravated battery, burglary and possession with intent to distribute cocaine base in both state and federal courts; it is illegal for a convicted felon to possess a firearm. Cooper admitted that he sold various quantities of cocaine to the CIs on three separate occasions in Jan. 2017 at his Athens residence. Cooper, a convicted felon with a prior federal conviction for possessing with intent to distribute a controlled substance, was indicted in this case on July 14, 2020, and a firearm was retrieved at this home when agents executed a search warrant.
On Sept. 22, 2019, a GSP trooper stopped a vehicle with Lawrence driving and Booker in the front passenger seat. Lawrence was driving on a suspended license with an outstanding warrant for his arrest from Athens-Clarke County. As the trooper was dealing with Lawrence, Booker attempted to hide a large quantity of methamphetamine and alprazolam under the vehicle. The drugs under the vehicle were noticed and seized by the trooper. A search of the vehicle resulted in the seizure of approximately two pounds of marijuana, oxycodone packaged for illegal distribution and a pistol in the glovebox. Booker has a lengthy criminal history, which includes convictions for obstruction of an officer and three prior serious drug offenses.
This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.
The case was investigated by the FBI Middle Georgia Safe Streets Gang Task Force with assistance from Athens-Clarke County Police Department, Walton County Sheriff’s Office, Georgia State Patrol (GSP) and Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI).
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mike Morrison and Tamara Jarrett are prosecuting the case.