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Press Release

Armed Career Criminal Sentenced to 405 Months in Federal Prison

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Tennessee

Memphis, TN – James Nelson, 48, has been sentenced to 405 months in federal prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm. U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant announced the sentence today.

According to information presented in court, on Friday, September 15, 2017, Keysha Caldwell brought her 13-year-old daughter to the apartment of James Nelson, the father of their child. Nelson was in the apartment with his girlfriend when suddenly he began to physically assault Ms. Caldwell. Their daughter went back to their car to get help from her step-father, Ernest Bernard.

As Mr. Bernard, Ms. Caldwell, and her 13-year-old daughter were leaving the apartment, Nelson fired a shot at Ms. Caldwell, striking her in the head and killing her. Mr. Bernard called 911 and Ms. Caldwell's other daughter came to the apartment. Nelson then threatened to kill her stating, "your momma is laying in there dead and you'll be next." The death was ruled a homicide. A Smith & Wesson .40 caliber pistol was located inside the residence. Nelson waived his Miranda rights and gave a statement to the police, advising that he did not kill Ms. Caldwell; the gun went off during a struggle. However, his version of the events did not match the accounts of the other witnesses or the physical evidence.

Nelson was previously convicted for several felony charges involving drugs, guns, and violent crimes, including a 1996 conviction for voluntary manslaughter, where he shot and killed his sister.

On August 12, 2019, U.S. District Court Judge Sheryl H. Lipman sentenced Nelson to 405 months in federal prison followed by 3 years supervised release.

U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant said, "Convicted felons who possess firearms are an inherent danger to the community, and in this case, Nelson was a violent offender who continued to possess a firearm despite his prior felony conviction history. Nelson has devoted his adult life to a career of criminal conduct, and that prior history has finally caught up with him. Clearly, this armed career criminal had no hesitation in committing another violent crime with a firearm that resulted in death, and he will now be removed from our community for over 33 years."

The case was investigated by the Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Task Force, which includes the U.S. Attorney’s Office; the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the Memphis Police Department; and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, who have all joined together to address gun-related crimes through targeted investigations and aggressive prosecution.

Special Assistant U.S. Attorney (SAUSA) Samuel D. Winnig prosecuted this case on behalf of the government. SAUSA Winnig is currently assigned from the Shelby County District Attorney General’s Office for the purpose of prosecuting violent crimes and firearms offenses in federal court.



Cherri Green
Public Affairs
(901) 544-4231

Updated August 13, 2019