Skip to main content
Press Release

Two Beckley Men Sentenced for Federal Gun Crimes

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. –  United States Attorney Mike Stuart announced that two Beckley men have been sentenced to federal prison for being felons in possession of firearms.  The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Beckley Police Department conducted the investigations.  United States District Judge Irene C. Berger imposed the sentences.

John Swain, 45, was sentenced to 60 months in prison.  Swain was previously convicted by a federal jury in April 2019. Witnesses for the United States testified that on September 20, 2018, Swain, along with two other individuals, was being investigated for public intoxication and open container in downtown Beckley. Swain was the only one who was non-compliant. He continuously put his hands in his pocket and waistband area. Swain then fled on foot and maneuvered his hands towards his waist during the foot pursuit. He was apprehended and a canine tracked a 9mm Taurus pistol along the path of flight. After Swain’s arrest, law enforcement read him his Miranda rights and in a recorded interview, Swain admitted to possessing the firearm and that he wanted to get a clip and shoot it to see what it sounded like. Swain was prohibited from possessing any firearm under federal law because of a 2008 federal conviction in the Southern District of West Virginia for being a felon in possession of a firearm.  Assistant United States Attorneys Ryan A. Saunders and Steven I. Loew are in charge of the prosecution and tried the case before a federal jury.

In another case, John Watson, 43, was sentenced to 30 months in prison.  Watson previously admitted that on May 8 2018, an ATF Special Agent contacted him to discuss three firearms that he had recently purchased.  The firearms consisted of a Springfield Armory, model 1911 Trophy Match, .45 caliber pistol; a Smith & Wesson, model 57, .41 caliber revolver; and a Sig Sauer, model M400, .223 caliber rifle.  The ATF agent informed Watson that each of the firearms were stolen and asked him to return them to the Beckley Police Department.  Watson complied and turned the firearms over to the police.  Watson admitted that at the time he possessed the aforementioned firearms, he knew that he was prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law because of a 2004 felony conviction in Harrison County Circuit Court.  Assistant United States Attorney L. Alexander Hamner is handling the prosecution.

These cases are being prosecuted as part of the Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) program, 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.



Follow us on Twitter: SDWVNews and USAttyStuart


Updated October 3, 2019

Firearms Offenses
Project Safe Neighborhoods