United States Attorney Announces More Prosecutions As Part Of Violent Crime Initiative
INDIANAPOLIS – United States Attorney Joseph H. Hogsett announced today three new prosecutions as part of his office’s Violent Crime Initiative, which has charged more than 300 defendants with illegally possessing firearms since 2011. All three defendants are convicted felons face up to a decade or more in federal prison if they are convicted. Hogsett was joined in making this announcement by Mike Boxler, Indiana’s new Special Agent-in-Charge with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“When I was sworn in as U.S. Attorney, the request I heard most often from local law enforcement was to take more illegally armed felons off the streets, and stop the revolving door of justice at our local jails,” Hogsett said. “That is why I stand with our federal partners today in reiterating that it doesn’t matter if you choose to illegally arm yourself, illegally arm other adults, or illegally arm the juveniles of this city. You don’t have to pull the trigger to face lengthy prison time anymore. You will be identified, investigated, and held fully accountable.”
The new prosecutions were all the result of ATF investigations, and include Christopher Walbert, age 26, a convicted felon from Montgomery County with an extensive criminal history who was allegedly found with a .380 caliber handgun in early December. In another case, Daniel Bowen, age 28, was brought into custody at the Indianapolis International Airport when he allegedly attempted to bring a multi-caliber rifle onto the premises. Bowen is a convicted felon with a violent criminal history that stretches across multiple states.
Hogsett and Boxler specifically pointed to the case of Thomas Montgomery, age 39, an Indianapolis resident with a decade-long criminal history that includes prior Marion County convictions for illegally possessing a handgun, possessing cocaine, and dealing cocaine. Montgomery was allegedly arrested by Indianapolis law enforcement in early August and was found to be in possession of a 9mm semi-automatic pistol.
The core mission of ATF is to identify, pursue, and perfect criminal cases against those individuals who illegally possess and use firearms in furtherance of their criminal activities,” stated ATF Special Agent in Charge Michael Boxler. “We will continue to work shoulder to shoulder with all our law enforcement partners to ensure that these types of individuals who terrorize and jeopardize the tranquility of our communities are dealt with accordingly.”
In 2010, there was just one Assistant U.S. Attorney assigned to prosecute violent felons who illegally possessed firearms. In March 2011, Hogsett launched the U.S. Attorney’s Violent Crime Initiative, which prioritized a comprehensive, district-wide strategy to combat drug traffickers and habitual criminals that carry and use illegally-possessed firearms.
Now, there are 18 federal prosecutors who assist in prosecuting federal gun cases. The average number of illegal possession cases has risen from a pre-VCI figure of one new case every month to a record-setting pace of one new defendant every three days. All told, 296 defendants have been charged as part of the VCI since its launch, with 274 defendants sentenced over that same period of time.
Hogsett noted that Indianapolis has struggled over the last two years with an increase in high-profile gun crimes, and the city’s murder rate is the highest it has been in seven years. In response, the U.S. Attorney’s Office teamed up with the ATF and other federal law enforcement agencies to pledge additional resources toward assisting local efforts to combat the rise in violent gun crimes.
Since first announced in May 2013, this renewed federal effort has resulted in more than two-dozen prosecutions of individuals who are charged with illegally possessing firearms in Marion County. The 27 defendants with unsealed federal charges represent more than 100 prior felonies committed in the Indianapolis-area, and all now face a decade or more in prison if they are convicted. Under federal law, a minimum of 85% of those sentences must be served within a correctional institution.
In addition, the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney’s Office have announced more than $1.5 million in grants to assist with law enforcement and crime prevention efforts. This includes a $997,736 grant to the City of Indianapolis to purchase equipment and ammunition, as well as hire new staff. An additional $511,142 grant was awarded to strengthen Marion County’s crime laboratories, specifically bolstering the city’s DNA forensic equipment.
Boxler noted that ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are also working with IMPD to fully implement the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN). Established in 1999 and administered by the ATF, the program allows for guns and ammunition found in Indianapolis to be matched against a national database of weapons used in criminal activity. This allows investigators to better analyze how firearms get into the hands of convicted felons and juveniles, as well as more quickly discover connections between crime scenes. Hogsett said that the U.S. Attorney’s Office organized a NIBIN training for local officers earlier this year.
A criminal complaint or indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.