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Press Release

Columbia Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Firearm Charge

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Paul James, III, 35, of Columbia, was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.

Evidence presented to the court showed that on Aug. 19, 2020, James shot a man outside of a Percival Road gas station after the man and James’ girlfriend had an argument. The shooting was captured on the gas station’s video surveillance system. Both James and his girlfriend left the scene. After reviewing the surveillance video, Richland County Sheriff’s Department investigators obtained a search warrant for James’ girlfriend’s address. When investigators executed the search warrant, they found a 9mm handgun inside of a child’s toybox. James claimed ownership of the gun. 

James was prohibited from possessing a firearm and ammunition based on previous convictions in 2008 for assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature and three convictions in 2018 for distributing heroin and crack cocaine. James was also convicted in 2008 and 2016 for unlawfully carrying a pistol. James was on probation when the shooting incident occurred.

United States District Judge Mary Geiger Lewis sentenced James to 15 years in prison, to be followed by a five-year term of court-ordered supervision.  There is no parole in the federal system. 

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.

This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Richland County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD). Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher D. Taylor is prosecuting the case.



Veronica Hill, Public Affairs Specialist,, (803) 929-3000

Updated March 13, 2024

Project Safe Neighborhoods
Firearms Offenses