Friday, May 29, 2015

Federal Officials Close the Investigation Into the Death of Otis James Byrd

The Department of Justice announced today that following its investigation into the death of Otis James Byrd that there is no evidence to pursue federal criminal civil rights charges in the death of Byrd.

Officials from the Justice Department=s Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney=s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) met today with Byrd’s family to inform them of the decision.  Byrd, a 54-year old African-American man, was discovered hanging from a tree in Port Gibson, Mississippi, on March 19, 2015.

Justice Department investigators, working alongside state and local officials, conducted a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding Byrd’s death to determine whether his death was a homicide, and therefore within the scope of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.   

Under the applicable federal criminal civil rights statute, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that an individual willfully caused bodily injury because of the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity or disability.

After a careful and thorough review, a team of experienced federal prosecutors and FBI agents determined that there was no evidence to prove that Byrd’s death was a homicide.  Accordingly, the investigation into this incident has been closed.

The Justice Department is committed to investigations of allegations of hate crimes and will continue to devote the resources required to ensure that all allegations of serious civil rights violations are fully and completely investigated.

U.S. Marshals Task Force Arrests Williamsport Murder Fugitive in Southern Ohio

Williamsport, PA – Today, U.S. Marshal Martin Pane announced the arrest of Derrick Boone, a 39-year old man, on charges of criminal homicide and other related offenses.

Earlier this morning, Deputy U.S. Marshals and task force officers from the U.S. Marshals Service’s (USMS) Southern District of Ohio Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team (SOFAST) arrested Derrick Boone in the 6400 block of Hammel Street in Cincinnati, OH. Boone was turned over to local authorities pending his extradition to Lycoming County.

Boone was charged by the Williamsport Bureau of Police with criminal homicide and multiple counts of firearm violations and aggravated assault. It is alleged that, in the early morning hours of April 25, 2015, Boone shot three individuals after an altercation in the 500 block of 5th Avenue. One of the victims died from his injuries.

United States Marshal Martin J. Pane stated, “The coordination and cooperation demonstrated by law enforcement in this case led directly to a dangerous fugitive being taken off the streets. It is our top priority to arrest violent crime fugitives, especially those who have no regard for human life.”

The United States Marshals Service worked jointly in this investigation with personnel from the Williamsport Bureau of Police and the Lycoming County Sheriff’s Office, as well as U.S. Marshals from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Southern District of Ohio.

Two Tennessee Men Plead Guilty to Killing During Home Invasion Robbery

Two Tennessee men pleaded guilty to using a firearm to kill during a home invasion robbery they conducted on May 7, 2011, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney David Rivera of the Middle District of Tennessee.

Demario Winston, 27, of Clarksville, Tennessee, and Michael Massey, 26, of Lexington, Tennessee, pleaded guilty before Chief District Court Judge Kevin H. Sharp of the Middle District of Tennessee to conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act Robbery and use of a firearm in a crime of violence resulting in death.  Massey also pleaded guilty to attempted Hobbs Act Robbery.  A sentencing hearing for Massey is scheduled for Sept. 18, 2015, and a sentencing hearing for Winston will be scheduled at a later date.

According admissions reflected in the plea agreements, on May 7, 2011, Winston, Massey and others attempted to rob a home in Clarksville, and Massey used a sledge hammer to gain entry.  The conspirators previously had been advised that a large amount of cocaine and cash was stored inside a safe in the basement of the home.

The defendants further admitted that, while inside the home, Winston, who was armed with a 9mm pistol, engaged in a gun fight with the homeowner on the first floor as other conspirators attempted to force one of the occupants of the home, Raul Triana, to open the safe in the basement, and pistol-whipped him in the face in the process.  Evidence introduced in the plea hearing indicated that in response to the shooting on the first floor, some of the conspirators fled the home, and Massey, who was armed with an assault rifle, fled through the basement where he encountered Triana and shot and killed him.

In addition, according to the statement of facts in support of Massey’s plea, on Oct. 21, 2011, he and a co-defendant robbed the owner of a Clarksville-based construction company at gunpoint.

This case was investigated by the Clarksville Police Department and the DEA.  The case is being prosecuted by Laura Gwinn of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Lynne T. Ingram of the Middle District of Tennessee.