Thursday, April 16, 2009
DA joins feds in gun partnership
Monitor Staff Reports
ATHENS–Henderson County District Attorney Scott McKee announced Monday he has teamed with the US Attorney’s office and federal agents in the Project Safe Neighborhoods Program.
The program is designed to combine the resources of state and federal law enforcement and prosecution so illegal possession or use of a firearm is the fastest and most dependable route to long-term incarceration.
The program also focuses on aggressive prosecution of drug crimes where a firearm is involved.
“I want drug dealers and violent criminals off the streets and behind bars, and that is what this program is all about,” McKee said in a prepared news release issued Monday.
“Project Safe Neighborhoods has been around since 2001, but Henderson County never participated. One of my first goals after taking office was to ask for Federal help,” McKee said. “We asked, and the U.S. Attorney’s office was thrilled to join forces with us.
“We have seven prosecuting attorneys. The U.S. Attorney’s office has hundreds,” McKee added. “I would say we can’t go wrong with a partnership like that.”
McKee has designated first Assistant District Attorney and second in command Mark Hall to head the program.
“Mark has a great relationship with the U.S Attorney’s Office, and is well versed in Federal Criminal Law,” McKee said.
The program allows the District Attorney’s office to forward cases where a firearm is involved to the U.S. Attorney’s office for prosecution under federal law in a federal court.
Most federal gun laws provide much more severe penalties than state law, according to McKee. Also, usually no parole is granted to defendants sentenced to federal prison.
Hall indicated he referred two cases to federal authorities the first day of the new program and is anticipating forwarding more cases.
Hall also said the DA’s office will now work closely with the FBI, DEA and ATF in supplementing local law enforcement’s stepped-up efforts in busting drug dealers and violent criminals.
“Sheriff (Ray) Nutt’s priority on narcotics, and focus on quality investigations, will really mesh well with Federal Prosecutors,” Hall said.
President George W. Bush created Project Safe Neighborhoods in 2001 as an aggressive, comprehensive gun crime reduction strategy.
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