Former Convicted Human Trafficker Pleads Guilty under Project EJECT to Illegally Possessing a Firearm as a Convicted Felon | USAO-SDMS

Jackson, Miss. – Christopher Michael Cockrell, 45, of Bentonia, pled guilty today before U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, announced U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst and Kurt Thielhorn, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

On September 2, 2020 the United States Probation Office discovered that Cockrell had possession of cell phone which contained a video showing a firearm in a hunting blind.  Cockrell had been previously convicted in federal court in the Western District of Missouri for a Human Trafficking Offense.  After having served a lengthy prison sentence, Cockrell was released from prison and came to live in Mississippi.  Cockrell was then placed under the supervision of the United States Probation Office in the Southern District of Mississippi.

The United States Probation Office informed the ATF that they believed there was evidence that Cockrell had possessed a firearm.  As a convicted felon, it is against federal law for the Cockrell to possess a firearm.  ATF agents conducted an investigation and Cockrell eventually admitted that he had possessed firearms for hunting purposes.

Cockrell was indicted by a federal grand jury on November 17th of 2020.  He is currently in custody and will be sentenced on March 9, 2021 by Judge Reeves.  Cockrell faces a maximum penalty of ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  He also faces additional penalties for violating the conditions of his supervised release.

The case is being investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.  It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Charles W. Kirkham.

This case is part of Project EJECT, an initiative by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi under the U.S. Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) and Project Guardian. EJECT is a holistic, multi-disciplinary approach to fighting and reducing violent crime through prosecution, prevention, re-entry and awareness. EJECT stands for “Empower Justice Expel Crime Together.” PSN is bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensures that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities.

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