Federal Jury Finds “Worst of Worst” Offender from Albuquerque Guilty on Carjacking and Firearms Charges
40-Year-Old Defendant, Convicted on Federal Armed Career Charge in July 2016, Faces Statutory Mandatory Minimum of 47 Years to Maximum of Life Imprisonment
ALBUQUERQUE – A federal jury sitting in Albuquerque, N.M., returned a verdict late yesterday afternoon finding Samuel Silva, 40, guilty on carjacking and firearms charges arising from a one-day crime spree in April 2014, following a two-day trial. Another federal jury previously convicted Silva on an armed career criminal charge in July 2016.
Yesterday’s verdict was announced U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez, 2nd Judicial District Attorney Kari E. Brandenburg, Special Agent in Charge Thomas G. Atteberry of the Phoenix Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and Chief Gorden E. Eden, Jr., of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD).
In announcing the verdict, U.S. Attorney Martinez commended the ATF agents, APD officers and prosecutors responsible for ensuring that Silva will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars where he can never again terrorize innocent residents of our community. The U.S Attorney added, “This is what the federal ‘worst of the worst’ anti-violence initiative is all about – making New Mexicans safer by removing violent, repeat offenders from our communities for as long as possible.”
“This is an example of how our criminal justice system can work at its best,” said 2nd Judicial District Attorney Brandenburg. “When law enforcement agencies collaborate like this, everyone benefits.”
ATF Special Agent in Charge Atteberry said, “Anytime we can take a career criminal off the streets, we are a much safer community. Silva will have a long time to reflect on his actions while he is locked up in a federal prison. We will continue to aggressively pursue and prosecute in federal court these violent career offenders.”
“The Albuquerque Police Department is committed to ensuring that career criminals are not welcome in our city, and we will exhaust every resource to protect and serve our citizens,” said APD Police Chief Eden. “Working in concert with our ‘worst of the worst’ partners guarantees repeat offenders cannot continue to victimize innocent people.”
Silva was charged on Dec. 3, 2014, in a six-count indictment with attempted carjacking, brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, carjacking, discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, and two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. The indictment charged Silva with committing the first five offenses on April 23, 2014, and the sixth offense on July 1, 2014, in Bernalillo County, N.M.
According to the indictment, in April and July of 2014, Silva was prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition because he previously had been convicted of numerous felony offenses. His prior felony convictions include auto burglary, unlawful taking of a vehicle, aggravated battery on a peace officer, attempted murder with a firearms enhancement, shooting at a motor vehicle, unlawful possession of a firearm, kidnapping with a firearms enhancement, and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Silva was arrested on Dec. 18, 2014, after he was transferred to federal custody from state custody where he was detained on related state charges. The state charges subsequently were dismissed in favor of federal prosecution.
In June 2016, the court ordered separate trials for Silva on the carjacking and firearms offenses he committed on April 23, 2014, and the firearms offense he committed on July 1, 2014.
Silva’s first trial on Count 6 of the indictment began the morning of July 11, 2016, and concluded that that afternoon when the jury returned a guilty verdict. The evidence at trial established that when APD officers arrested Silva on July 1, 2014, he was in possession of a semi-automatic pistol loaded with nine rounds of .40 caliber ammunition. At sentencing on that conviction, Silva faces an enhanced sentence of a statutory mandatory minimum of 15 years and a maximum of life in prison for this conviction because of his status as an armed career criminal.
Silva’s second trial on the remaining five counts of the indictment began on Aug. 15, 2016, and concluded late yesterday afternoon when the jury returned a guilty verdict on all five counts. The evidence at trial established that on April 23, 2014, Silva forced his way into a home in southwest Albuquerque, where he brandished a .45 caliber pistol at the victim and demanded items of value including the keys to the car parked in the homeowner’s (Victim 1) driveway. Silva fled the scene after he bound Victim 1 with electrical cords torn from various appliances in Victim 1’s home. Victim 1 was able to free herself and call for help from a neighbor’s house.
After fleeing from Victim 1’s home, Silva ran approximately one block where he attempted to enter a second residence. When the homeowner (Victim 2) refused and attempted to retrieve his own handgun, Silva shot the locked storm door, breaking the bottom pane of glass and crawled through the glass, cutting himself in the process. Before Victim 2 could retrieve his own firearm, Silva confronted him and demanded the keys to the pickup truck in Victim 2’s driveway. Before Victim 2 could comply with Silva’s demand, Silva shot Victim 2 through the lower left leg. Silva then dragged Victim 2 to the kitchen where he took the keys to the truck. Silva fled Victim 2’s home in the truck, which he abandoned at a third home about a mile away. Forensic scientists were able to identify Silva by blood he left at Victim 2’s home and in the truck.
The jury deliberated for approximately 30 minutes before returning the guilty verdict.
At sentencing, Silva faces a statutory maximum penalty of 15 years in prison on the attempted carjacking charge; a statutory maximum penalty of 25 years in prison on the carjacking charge; and a penalty of a statutory mandatory minimum of 15 years and a maximum of life in prison for being an armed career criminal. Additionally, Silva faces a statutory mandatory minimum of 32 years in prison, which must be served consecutive to any sentence imposed on the other charges, for brandishing and discharging firearms during the attempted carjacking and carjacking. In sum, Silva faces a statutory mandatory minimum term of 47 years to a lifetime of imprisonment for his conviction on Counts 1 through 5 of the indictment.
The case was investigated by ATF in Albuquerque and APD with assistance from the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jacob A. Wishard and Edward Han are prosecuting the case as part of a federal anti-violence initiative that targets “the worst of the worst” offenders for federal prosecution. Under this initiative, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement agencies work with New Mexico’s District Attorneys and state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to target violent or repeat offenders primarily based on their prior criminal convictions for federal prosecution with the goal of removing repeat offenders from communities in New Mexico for as long as possible. Because New Mexico’s violent crime rate, on a per capita basis, is one of the highest in the nation, New Mexico’s law enforcement community is collaborating to target repeat and violent offenders, primarily based on their prior convictions, from counties with the highest violent crime rates under this initiative.