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Press Release

Berryville Man Sentenced to 90 Months, Required to Forfeit Firearms for Illegal Possession of Guns, Distribution of Cocaine

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

HARRISONBURG, Va. – Cironta Commander, who pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession with the intent to distribute cocaine, was sentenced this week in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg to 90 months in federal prison and ordered to forfeit his firearms, Acting United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar, Ashan M. Benedict, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Washington Field Division, and Jarod Forget, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Washington Division announced today.

Commander, 22, of Berryville, Virginia, pleaded guilty in December 2020 to one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and one count of possession with the intent to distribute and distributing 28 grams or more of cocaine base.

According to court documents, on January 27, 2020 an officer with the Berryville Police Department initiated a traffic stop of Commander. As the officer returned to his cruiser to investigate a potential discrepancy in Commander’s paperwork, Commander sped from the scene at a high rate of speed. When the defendant approached an intersection, he failed to stop at a stop sign and drove into a grassy area between an apartment building and a tree, where there were people present in the common area. As the defendant reentered the roadway, he drove toward a dead end and crashed into a tree.

Commander attempted to flee the scene on foot while carrying a backpack but was detained. In a search of the backpack, officers found a loaded Smith & Wesson, 9mm, semi-automatic pistol containing five rounds of ammunition. In addition, officers found approximately 3.66 oz. of marijuana, $4,738 in cash, a bundle of clear plastic bags commonly used for narcotics distribution, and a small plastic bag of white powder with 2.19 grams of powder cocaine. At the time of his possession of the firearm, Commander was a previously convicted felon prohibited from legally possessing a firearm.

Local police executed a search warrant at the defendant’s residence in Berryville, Va., on February 3, 2020. In the basement of the residence, officers found three rifles and $4,392. In the closet in the master bedroom, agents located a shoebox with an additional $11,000 in cash.

Additionally, during the search of a Cadillac Escalade parked in the driveway, agents recovered an access card for a storage unit in Stephens City, Virginia. Agents went to that location and learned the unit had only been leased following Commander’s arrest. After obtaining a search warrant of the location, agents recovered a variety of narcotics, including 191.64 grams of fentanyl, 32.96 grams of heroin, 349.47 grams of powder cocaine and 181.83 grams of cocaine base.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Berryville Police Department, the Virginia State Police’s Northwest Virginia Regional Drug Task Force, the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office, and the Office of the Clarke County Commonwealth’s Attorney. Assistant United States Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh prosecuted the case for the United States.

Updated March 24, 2021