Recidivist Offender Sentenced to Nearly 15 Years in Federal Prison for Unlawful Possession of a Machinegun While on Supervised Release
PITTSBURGH, PA - Scott W. Brady, United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, today announced continued progress in combatting violent crime through a series of targeted strategies as part of the revitalized Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) initiative.
Two years ago, the Department of Justice strengthened and enhanced Project Safe Neighborhoods, an evidence-based program that serves as the centerpiece of the Department’s violent crime reduction strategy. In the Western District of Pennsylvania, U.S. Attorney Brady has deployed the enhanced PSN program to attack a broad range of violent crime issues facing the district. Western District of Pennsylvania prosecutors target violent criminal organizations and drug trafficking enterprises, while also removing the most violent offenders from the community through prosecution of individual violent crime and illegal firearm possession cases. PSN resources are also invested in local prevention and reentry programs that seek to implement lasting reductions in violent crime through community engagement.
"The revitalized Project Safe Neighborhoods program is a major success," said Attorney General William P. Barr. "It packs a powerful punch by combining advanced data with local leadership, further reducing violence in communities across the country and improving overall public safety. U.S. Attorneys continue to focus their enforcement efforts against the most violent criminals and work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal police. The Justice Department’s relationships across the board have never been stronger."
Throughout the past two years, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania has partnered with all levels of law enforcement, local organizations, and members of the community to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Partnerships with county District Attorney’s offices are critical to this mission, including the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Narcotics Enforcement Team (DANET), and District Attorney’s Offices in Beaver, Erie, Mercer and Washington Counties. Additionally, through a partnership with the Allegheny County Police, we are identifying crime hotspots and focusing federal resources where they can make the most impact.
"Creating safer neighborhoods by decreasing violent crime, including large-scale drug trafficking, illegal possession and use of firearms, gang activity and organized crime, is a top priority of this office," said U.S. Attorney Scott W. Brady. "By working with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, as well as our community partners, we have developed an effective strategy to reduce violence in the Western District of Pennsylvania. We will continue to use every available federal law enforcement tool to keep our citizens safe."
As we celebrate the two-year anniversary of the revitalized PSN program, here are some of the highlights of our PSN actions over the past year:
Reduction in Firearms-Related Violent Crime in Western Pennsylvania
For the second consecutive year, the estimated number of violent crimes in the nation decreased when compared with the previous year’s statistics, according to the FBI’s 2018 Unified Crime Report. In 2018, both the number of violent crimes and the violent crime rate fell from 2017 numbers, by 3.3% and 3.7%, respectively.
In western Pennsylvania, the 2018 statistics show a more significant decrease. Firearms-related violence (murders, robberies and assaults committed with a firearm) fell 19% for the 25 counties comprising the Western District of Pennsylvania, including a 25% reduction in Allegheny County, a 10% reduction in Erie County, a 39% reduction in Washington County and a 14% reduction in Westmoreland County. Firearms-related violent crime fell 32% in the City of Pittsburgh.
The PSN program has enabled the U.S. Attorney’s Office to partner with local and state law enforcement to ensure federal efforts are focused against the most violent offenders. This partnership has resulted in significant increases in the prosecution of violent crime and gun offenders. In fiscal years 2018 and 2019, the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged more federal firearm offenses in each year than were charged in each of the fiscal years of 2004 through 2016.
Federal prosecution of violent criminals provides several key advantages:
• Pretrial detention – a presumption that the defendant is a danger and a risk of flight, and should be held without bond pending trial.
• Severe penalties with mandatory minimum sentences - we are able to incapacitate these dangerous criminals and protect the community from further crimes by them.
• No parole or early release. Defendants serve their full sentence.
"Because every citizen deserves to live free from the fear of violent crime, we made prosecuting and dismantling violent street gangs a top priority of our office," said U.S. Attorney Brady.
• In June, following a Title III wiretap investigation, we charged 33 residents of Braddock, Pa. and Allegheny County with drug trafficking and firearms possession. Many of these individuals were members or associates of the "SCO" gang, a violent, multi-generational drug trafficking network involved in the illegal distribution of cocaine, heroin and marijuana.
• Also in June, following a separate Title III wiretap investigation, 39 people – 37 from the Pittsburgh-area – were indicted on charges of drug trafficking and firearms violations. The named conspirators included leaders, members, drug suppliers and associates of a violent neighborhood gang known as Darccide-Smash 44 (DS44), based out of the Knoxville, Arlington and Mt. Oliver neighborhoods on Pittsburgh’s South Side.
• Through a partnership with the Lawrence County District Attorney’s Office, nine Ellwood City residents were charged in separate but related indictments with violating federal narcotics and firearms laws. One of those defendants, Derick Davare, was sentenced to 12½ years (150 months) for conspiring to possess 400 grams or more of fentanyl and illegally possessing guns and ammunition as a felon.
• In Summer 2018, 28 members and associates of the violent Greenway Boy Killas (GBK) street gang were charged with drug trafficking in and around an area known as the Greenway Projects located in the West End of the City of Pittsburgh. As of October 2019, 16 of the defendants charged have entered guilty pleas. Gang member Brett Rodgers was sentenced in July to 16 years and eight months (200 months) in prison for conspiring to distribute crack cocaine.
"Armed robberies are among the most violent crimes investigated and prosecuted by our office. We are committed to bringing these violent criminals to justice," said U.S. Attorney Brady.
Examples of armed robberies cases prosecuted in federal court in the Western District of Pennsylvania in 2019 include:
• In August, four Allegheny County residents were indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery and aiding and abetting. The indictment alleges that Jaron Davis, True Kinnon, Rudolph McBride and Wayne Edward conspired to commit a series of armed robberies in December 2018 and January 2019 of various convenience stores throughout Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.
• In September, Rayshawn Patterson of Cleveland, Ohio pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burglarize Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) in Clarion and Jefferson Counties and transport the stolen firearms back to Cleveland. Traveling from Cleveland to rural areas of western Pennsylvania, Patterson and his co-conspirators burglarized DSD Sports in Brookville, Pa., by smashing the front door and windows with a sledgehammer and other tools. Once inside the store, they stole 16 firearms including 14 handguns and two assault rifles, which they transported back to Cleveland. Patterson is scheduled to be sentenced on February 18, 2020.
• Last October, following their conviction at trial, Kahlil Shelton, formerly of Duquesne, Pa., was sentenced to 16 years (192 months) and Deron Howell, formerly of Swissvale, Pa., was sentenced to 42½ years (511 months) on numerous drug, firearm and robbery violations stemming from two violent robbery incidents in Cranberry Township and Pittsburgh in the summer of 2017.
•In September, Glenn Ford of Wilkinsburg, Pa. was sentenced to 12 years and seven months (151 months) on his conviction of bank robbery and Hobbs Act robbery. Ford, wearing various costumes, was responsible for a spree of robberies of banks and convenience stores in the City of Pittsburgh.
Illegal Possession/Saleof Firearms
Federal law prohibits anyone who has been convicted of a crime punishable by a term of imprisonment exceeding one year from possessing a firearm or ammunition. The prosecution of felons who illegally possess firearms has long been a key part of an effective PSN anti-violence strategy by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Working collaboratively with federal and local law enforcement, the prosecution of felons possessing firearms endeavors to prosecute those criminals with a history of violence, thereby disrupting the cycle of violence in neighborhoods throughout the district.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has increased its prosecution of illegal possession of firearms cases–charging more gun defendants in each of the past two years than in any single year in more than a decade.
Examples of felon in possession cases prosecuted in federal court in the Western District of Pennsylvania in 2019 include:
• In December 2018, Thomas Stanko of Latrobe, Pa., was indicted for the unlawful possession of 17 firearms and ammunition, after having been convicted of multiple crimes related to retaliation against a witness or victim, criminal conspiracy, firearms not to be carried without a license, receipt of stolen property, and forgery.
• In May, Federal Firearms License dealer William Midberry, of Slippery Rock, Pa., pleaded guilty to making false entries onto federal firearms purchase forms and selling 21 firearms without performing required background checks. Midberry, who operated the Slippery Rock Outfitters gun dealership, is scheduled to be sentenced on December 5, 2019.
• In January, Brandon Mlinac of North Versailles. Pa., was sentenced to 2½ years’ imprisonment for the illegal possession of an unregistered New England Firearms 20 gauge sawed-off shotgun, with an obliterated serial number and ammunition, based upon an outstanding protection from abuse order entered against him in December 2017. Mlinac also possessed a Savage Arms 17 caliber rifle while unlawfully using methamphetamine.
• In January, Stanley Patterson of Carnegie, Pa., was sentenced to seven years (84 months) in prison for illegally possessing multiple firearms, ammunition and body armor. Patterson has prior convictions for crimes that include robbery, criminal conspiracy, burglary, theft, receiving stolen property and felony criminal trespass. A person is prohibited from possessing body armor under federal law if they have been convicted of a prior crime of violence, such as robbery.
• In October, Darnell Shipman of Pittsburgh was sentenced to 7½ years’ imprisonment for unlawfully possessing a Canik 9-millimeter pistol and ammunition after having been convicted of 13 prior offenses in seven different cases between 2010 and 2018.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office sponsors, supports and collaborates with multiple community organizations and leaders to engage the public in PSN, not just as recipients of violent crime reduction messages, but also as active participants in the initiative to reduce crime in our community.
• U.S. Attorney’s Police-Community Relations Group - These groups, which operate in both southwestern Pennsylvania and Erie, work to ensure that the civil rights of all are protected and respected, while recognizing the need for effective law enforcement strategies to combat crime and enhance public safety. The groups bring together law enforcement and community leaders who work to build and enhance trust and mutual respect.
• Pittsburgh Group Violence Initiative, a strategy that aims to reduce gang-related gun violence by targeting the city’s most violent gang members while also offering social services and support to those who agree to stop the violence.
• Unified Erie, a data-driven violence reduction strategy that focuses on prevention, enforcement and re-entry.
• Pittsburgh Downtown Safety Coalition, which ensures the safety of more than 1,200 students transitioning through the downtown area, minimize disruption and create avenues for positive interaction between law enforcement and the students.
• Beaver County Community and Law Enforcement Coalition, which was established to build trust between community and police by enhancing communication and addressing safety concerns.
"Reentry programs are a critical part of the Department’s mission to help ex-offenders to successfully reenter society and lead productive, fulfilling lives," said U.S. Attorney Brady.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office leads several reentry programs for ex-federal offenders. Given that federal offenders with significant criminal histories or a history of violent crime recidivate at rates of more than 70% and 63%, respectively, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, it is a priority of our office to provide those offenders returning to our community with the tools needed for a successful reentry. These include:
• The Reintegration into Society Effort (RISE) Court connects defendants to mental health and substance abuse treatment, education and literacy programs, employment and vocational training, family counseling, healthcare, and housing. In exchange for accruing credits for compliance and attending RISE court, participants can earn a reduction of up to half of their remaining term of supervised release.
• With nearly 10% of federal defendants having served in the United States Armed Forces, the Veterans Treatment Court was created with the goal of assisting veterans on federal supervision with mental health and substance dependency issues that relate to their military service. The Veterans Court offers intensive, specialized court supervision to veterans; coordinates the provision of services and treatment to qualified veterans through the Veterans Administration; and provides a veteran peer mentor for each participant. Participation is voluntary and graduates from the program may have their terms of supervision reduced.
• The BRIDGES Presentence Court was created to identify and address those defendants with significant substance abuse and/or mental health abuse issues. A voluntary program, Bridges participants agree to intensive supervision that includes regular court appearances and mandatory participation in substance abuse and/or mental health abuse treatment programs. The program also provides support with employment, education, cognitive behavioral therapy, and other needs. Participants enter a guilty plea before the assigned District Court Judge, and are then required to comply with an intensive supervision program of approximately 12 to 18 months. BRIDGES Court has two tracks for participants who successfully comply with intensive supervision, that result in either (1) dismissal of the charges; or (2) an agreed upon non-incarceration sentence.
These enforcement actions and partnerships are 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 make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally based strategies to reduce violent crime. To learn more about Project Safe Neighborhoods, go to www.justice.gov/psn.