SAVANNAH, GA: Seven defendants face federal felony firearms after their indictments by a grand jury in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia.
All of those charged are previously convicted felons, which prohibits them from possessing firearms. The cases are being investigated under the umbrella of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice initiative targeting illegal firearms, and in coordination with local law enforcement agencies and the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives (ATF).
“It couldn’t be more clear: Convicted felons are prohibited from possessing firearms – period,” said U.S. Attorney Bobby L. Christine. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to enforce existing law.”
In the past three years, more than 650 defendants were federally charged in the Southern District of Georgia for illegal firearms offenses – most often for carrying a firearm after having been convicted of a previous felony. The charge carries a penalty upon conviction of up to 10 years in prison, and there is no parole in the federal system. Nationwide, more than 14,200 defendants were charged with federal firearms violations in the past year – 168 of them in the Southern District.
Those named in federal indictments from the first 2021 term of the U.S. District Court grand jury include:
- April Nina Hawthorne, 32, of Augusta, charged with Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.
- Jamerson Brandon Turner, 27, of Augusta, charged with Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.
- Blake McDuffie, 26, of Winder, Ga., charged with Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.
- James Stallings III, 28, of Augusta, charged with Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.
- Kenneth Wayne Jones III, 26, of Augusta, charged with Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.
- Joseph Edward Palmer, 28, of Thomson, Ga., charged with Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.
- Marquise Grant, 31, of Savannah, charged with Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.
The charge of Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon carries a possible penalty upon conviction of up to 10 years in prison. There is no parole in the federal system.
Criminal indictments contain only charges; defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
These Project Guardian cases also are investigated under the Prosecutor to Prosecutor Program (P3), in which federal and state prosecutors collaborate to determine the most appropriate venue for prosecuting crimes.
In addition to the ATF, agencies investigating the cases include the Savannah Police Department; the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office; and the Pooler Police Department.
The cases are being investigated for the United States by Southern District U.S. Attorney’s Office Assistant U.S. Attorneys, including Project Guardian Coordinator Henry W. Syms; Patricia G. Rhodes; Frank Pennington III; Edwin Caban; and Steven Lee.
Under federal law, it is illegal to possess a firearm if you fall into one of nine prohibited categories including being a felon; illegal alien; or unlawful user of a controlled substance. Further, it is unlawful to possess a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense or violent crime. It is also illegal to purchase – or even to attempt to purchase – firearms if the buyer is a prohibited person or illegally purchasing a firearm on behalf of others. Lying on ATF Form 4473, which is used to lawfully purchase a firearm, also is a federal offense.
For more information on the lawful purchasing of firearms, please see: https://www.atf.gov/qa-category/atf-form-4473.