CHARLESTON, W.Va. – James Edward Bennett III, 30, of Charleston, pleaded guilty today to a federal gun crime.
According to court documents and statements made in court, on July 4, 2021, the FBI was conducting a wiretap investigation of a multi-state methamphetamine distribution organization operating in and around Charleston. Intercepted calls alerted the agents that Bennett and three other men planned to murder a man on the West Side of Charleston. Surveillance confirmed that Bennett and the others armed themselves and traveled in a rented SUV from Rand toward the West Side. The Charleston Police Department deployed multiple marked vehicles to the area to establish a highly visible presence. The driver of the SUV parked at the Kroger fuel station on Washington Street. Upon seeing the numerous police cruisers, Bennett and the other men abandoned the vehicle and left the area. The FBI impounded the vehicle and executed a search warrant, recovering four loaded pistols and a .223 caliber pistol modified to resemble an “AR-style” firearm with a loaded drum magazine from the vehicle. Bennett admitted the he possessed a 9mm pistol and the .223 caliber pistol with the drum magazine. Bennett is prohibited from possessing firearms because of his previous felony convictions in Kanawha County Circuit Court which include first degree robbery in 2010, voluntary manslaughter in 2017, and unlawful wounding in 2019.
Bennett pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and faces up to 10 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on May 23, 2022.
“The quick response of our law enforcement partners prevented a shooting on Charleston’s West Side,” said United States Attorney Will Thompson. “Public safety is always at risk when felons possess firearms, especially when they have a history of violent crime convictions. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the FBI, the Charleston Police Department, the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department and MDENT, we will continue to thwart violent crimes in our communities.”
Brian Dangelo Terry, 37, is scheduled to plead guilty to his role in the offense on March 14, 2022. Treydan Leon Burks, 31, and Douglas Johnathan Wesley, 33 are scheduled for trial on May 3, 2022.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Charleston Police Department, the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department, and the Metropolitan Drug Enforcement Network Team (MDENT) conducted the investigation.
United States District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin presided over the plea hearing. Assistant United States Attorney Joshua Hanks is handling the prosecution.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), 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.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. Related court documents and information can be found on PACER by searching for Case Nos. 2:21-cr-00172, 2:21-cr-00171, and 2:21-cr-00211.