A Statesboro man is among six defendants facing federal charges, including drug trafficking and illegal possession of firearms, after separate indictments were released by a grand jury in the Southern District of Georgia.
Also, a Twin City man was among 14 defendants in U.S. District Court in Savannah who entered guilty pleas and received criminal sentences related to illegal gun possession.
Melvin Jamarcus Lanier, 42, of Statesboro, is charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
The indicted cases are being investigated as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods in collaboration with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration, to reduce violent crime with measures that include targeting convicted felons who illegally carry guns.
“Our aggressive stance toward those who illegally possess firearms is a key part of our effort to reduce violent crime in the Southern District,” said David H. Estes, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. “Identifying and removing illegally possessed guns from our streets automatically makes our communities safer.”
In the past four years, more than 755 defendants have been federally charged in the Southern District of Georgia for illegal firearms offenses — most often for possessing a firearm after conviction for a previous felony.
In addition to Lanier, the other defendants named in federal indictments from the May 2022 term of the U.S. District Court grand jury include:
· Davonta Johnson, 31, of Hinesville, charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, relating to a prior conviction for domestic violence;
· Quentin Van Walker, 34, of Dublin, charged with distribution of heroin, possession of stolen firearms, attempt to possess with intent to distribute fentanyl, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime;
· James Wayne Cooper Jr., 37, of Waynesboro, charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon;
· Jeffrey J. Haynes, 30, of Savannah, charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon; and
· Johnathan Nathaniel Heyward, 28, of Savannah, charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
There were 14 additional defendants who were recently adjudicated on federal charges of illegal firearms possession, including Lannie Howard Morris III, 38, of Twin City,
Morris was sentenced to 110 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and fined $1,500 after pleading guilty to two counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Morris escaped police after an attempted traffic stop and ensuing chase in December 2020 and was arrested Jan. 26, 2021, by deputies from the Emanuel County Sheriff’s Office after another brief chase. Multiple firearms were found in both vehicles after the incidents, along with drugs and other paraphernalia. At the time of his arrest, Morris was on parole for a previous state felony conviction.
Under federal law, it is illegal for an individual to possess a firearm if he or she falls into one of nine prohibited categories, including being a felon, an illegal alien or an 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, is also a federal offense.