Kansas City, Kan. Federal prosecutors in Kansas said this week they are getting tough with convicted felons who commit new gun crimes after the U.S. attorney general told U.S. attorneys across the country to do whatever it takes to remove violent criminals from the streets.
Barry Grissom, U.S. attorney for Kansas, said the aim of the initiative targeting violent repeat offenders is to increase community safety and protection for law enforcement officers.
He said it’s just a fact of life that some hardened criminals will never change their ways, so they need to be dealt as severely as federal law will allow.
“That person is not going to be rehabilitated,” Grissom said. “They’ll live a lifestyle of crime until he or she draws their last breath.”
At a news conference this week, Grissom said Attorney General Eric Holder issued the directive after 27 officers were killed nationwide in the past 15 months.
Grissom said it’s time to stop the revolving door through which violent offenders are sentenced at the state level, serve modest sentences and then are released back into the community, where some revert to the lifestyles that landed them in prison in the first place.
“I want to send a message,” Grissom said. “If you’re using a gun to commit a crime, you’re the target. If you’re caught and convicted, you’re going to federal prison.”
The U.S. attorney said he has asked county prosecutors across the state to turn over to his office cases in which a convicted felon is charged with new violent crimes.
“What the attorney general asked us to do, ’give us a list of folks who have been repeat offenders,’” Grissom said. “If you have them, why not give them to us?”
Not only are prison sentences at the federal level far harsher than punishment under state laws for the same crimes, but they come with no chance for parole. As an example, Grissom announced indictments against four convicted felons who are accused of armed robberies this year in the Kansas City metro area.
Two of them — Abasi Baker, 31, and Mark Davis, 33, both of Kansas City, Mo. — are accused of seven armed robberies, including four payday loan companies, two Radio Shack stores and a Dollar Store.
The other two defendants, Donnell Roberson, 25, and Jerome Brown, 20, are accused of robbing an Everyday Convenience Store in Kansas City, Kan., in January. In that robbery, the store clerk shot one of the robbers as they fled, causing the wounded man to drop a .38-caliber revolver.
Half an hour after the robbery, Roberson showed up at a hospital with a gunshot wound that had caused both of his lungs to collapse, prosecutors said.
Under federal sentencing guidelines, all four men could be sent to prison for life if convicted. Grissom said those sentences might be much shorter if the defendants were convicted in state courts.
He said the new Kansas effort mirrors strategies already being practiced by the U.S. attorney’s office in Kansas City, Mo.
The key to the crackdown’s success will be cooperation among local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to identify and convict felons who commit violent crimes.
Kansas City, Kan., Police Chief Rick Armstrong said he supports anything that will take violent offenders off the streets.
“From a police viewpoint, I want them out of our jurisdiction as long as possible,” Armstrong said. “There’s a revolving door where some are coming back to the community sooner than we’d like.”
Messages left with the attorneys for Baker, Davis and Roberson on Friday were not immediately returned. It was unclear after a review of electronic public records and a call to the federal public defender’s office in Kansas City, Kan., whether Brown had acquired counsel.