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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Utah

Monday, April 3, 2017

Fifteen Firearms Cases Filed in St George Area in First Three Months of 2017

ST. GEORGE – Federal prosecutors working in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in St. George have filed 15 firearms cases since the beginning of 2017. Partnering with local police officers, task forces, and federal agents, their efforts are targeting individuals prohibited under federal laws from possessing firearms or ammunition.


“Federal firearms laws are a valuable tool to we use to reduce violent crime and protect Utah communities. The majority of defendants in these cases have previous felony convictions and many are charged with possession of drugs or violations of other federal laws in addition to the firearms count,” U.S. Attorney John W. Huber said today. “We recognize and appreciate the diligent work of local law enforcement officers and task forces, federal agents, and other partners in preparing these cases for prosecution.”


Examples of the cases filed in St. George this year include:


US v William Henry Woods

Woods, age 38, of Tennessee, was charged with felon in possession of a firearm and possession of counterfeit currency in an indictment returned Feb. 1, 2017. According to a complaint filed in the case, a deputy from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office stopped a car in Washington City, Utah, for traffic violations. There were three individuals in the car – the male driver and two females. The driver provided the deputy with a driver’s license. The picture on the license did not resemble the driver.


While a deputy was checking the license, the driver drove away. He went a short distance before driving off the road. He then fled on foot. One of the passengers told the deputy the driver likely had a firearm in the vehicle or on his person. During a subsequent search of the vehicle, officers found a loaded Sig Sauer P938 9mm pistol. Records show the pistol was reported stolen in Memphis, TN. Officers also located about 42 $50 bills in the vehicle’s center console. Each of the bills shared one of four serial numbers. The driver, identified as Woods, was arrested by the officers. He was on federal supervised release in Tennessee after recently completing a 10-year prison sentence for another firearms violation. Woods pleaded guilty to the firearms count in the indictment on March 27. Sentencing is set for Aug. 7, 2017, at 1:30 p.m. in St. George before U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart. He faces up to 10 years in federal for the firearms conviction.


Deputies in the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and special agents of the FBI are investigating the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys in St. George are prosecuting the case.


US v Verne Francis Holmes, III

Holmes, age 47, of St. George, was indicted in March on one count of felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. He came to law enforcement’s attention in January after setting off a shoplifting alarm in a department store. After he was confronted by store employees, Holmes left the store. He got into a vehicle driven by a woman. Employees called the police. Eventually, the car Holmes was a passenger in entered the parking lot of a St. George restaurant. Holmes began shuffling property in the car and removed the license plate. An off-duty detective from Salt Lake City was observing his activities. The detective became suspicious watching Holmes’ actions.


Holmes was located hiding behind the restaurant. Officers found .22 caliber ammunition in a backpack in his possession. During a search of the car, officers located more ammunition and a Hi-Standard .22 caliber revolver. A writ has been issued for Holmes to appear in federal court in St. George on the charges. He faces up to 10 years in federal prison if convicted.


St. George police officers and special agents of the ATF are investigating the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in St. George are prosecuting the case.


US v Clinton Michael Johnson

Johnson, age 39, of Cedar City, was stopped by a Cedar City Police Officer for a traffic violation on Nov. 14, 2016. According to a complaint filed in the case, the officer detected the odor of marijuana. Johnson could not provide proof of insurance for the vehicle said he could call the owner of the vehicle who would bring the proof of insurance for the vehicle to the officer. While waiting for the owner to arrive, an Iron County deputy sheriff arrived with his K-9. The dog alerted to the presence of narcotics inside the vehicle. A search of the vehicle found a small amount of methamphetamine, two digital scales, and numerous small plastic baggies. A loaded .45 caliber handgun was located under the floor mat of the seat where Johnson had been sitting. Winchester .45 caliber ammunition was also found in the car.


On the same day as his arrest, Johnson was supposed to report to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to begin serving a 40-month sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Stewart in September 2016. The federal complaint for the new conduct was filed Jan 6, 2017, and he was charged in a Felony Information with felon in possession of ammunition and possession of methamphetamine on Jan. 17, 2017. Although ATF has yet to determine whether the firearm Johnson possessed traveled in interstate commerce, the ammunition was not manufactured in the State of Utah.


Johnson pleaded guilty to possession of the ammunition on Feb. 27, 2017. He faces up to 10 years in federal prison when he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart in May.


Officers of the Cedar City Police Department, deputies from the Iron County Sheriff’s Office, and special agents of the DEA are investigating the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in St. George are prosecuting the case.

Firearms Offenses
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Violent Crime
Updated April 3, 2017