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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Iowa

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, October 5, 2020

Drug Use and an Illegal Sawed-Off Shotgun Send Two to Federal Prison

Smith-Downs’ wife died after accidentally shooting herself with the shotgun

Two Iowa men were sentenced to federal prison for firearms charges.

Christopher Anthony Craig, age 27, from Duncombe, Iowa, received the prison term after an August 18, 2020, guilty plea to one-count of Receipt and Possession of an Unregistered Firearm.         

Deacon Smith-Downs, age 29, from Ogden, Iowa, received his prison term after a May 18, 2020, guilty plea to one-count of Possession of a Firearm by a Drug User and one count of Receipt and Possession of an Unregistered Firearm.

Evidence presented at the change of plea and sentencing hearings in this case revealed the following:  Sometime between about September 1, 2018 and February 21, 2019, Smith-Downs and Craig were unlawful users of controlled substances and Smith-Downs acquired an illegal sawed-off shotgun.  On or about February 20 and 21, 2019, the two men, and Smith-Downs’ wife, got high together and handled the shotgun.  On or about February 21, 2019, Smith-Downs informed 911 that his wife had killed herself with the sawed-off shotgun.  When law enforcement arrived they found the deceased woman, Smith-Downs, Craig, and the illegal shotgun. Smith-Downs eventually (during a subsequent interview) admitted to being a user of methamphetamine and marijuana and that he, his wife, and Craig had all handled the weapon within 12 hours of the fatal shooting. 

On August 18, 2020, Craig was sentenced in Sioux City by United States District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand.  Craig was sentenced to seven months’ imprisonment.  He must also serve a twelve-month term of supervised release after the prison term.  There is no parole in the federal system.

On September 22, 2020, Smith-Downs was sentenced in Sioux City by United States District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand.  Smith-Downs was sentenced to 42 months’ imprisonment.  He must also serve a 24-month term of supervised release after the prison term.  There is no parole in the federal system.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN).  PSN is 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/ag/page/file/1217186/download.

Craig and Smith Downs are being held in the United States Marshal’s custody until they can be transported to a federal prison.

The case was investigated by the Webster County Sheriff’s Office, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, and Boone County Sheriff’s Office.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Forde Fairchild. 

Court file information at https://ecf.iand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl

The case file number is 19-CR-3048..

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Topic(s): 
Project Guardian
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Firearms Offenses
Component(s): 
Updated October 5, 2020