CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A Charleston man was sentenced today to 10 years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, for being a felon in possession of a firearm in connection with a thwarted Fourth of July 2021 murder scheme.
According to court documents and statements made in court, James Edward Bennett III, 31, was one of four men who armed themselves at a Rand residence on July 4, 2021, and drove to Charleston’s West Side where they intended to shoot another man. Alerted to the plot, police in marked cruisers converged on the area. The four men abandoned their vehicle in a Washington Street parking lot due to the increased police presence. Law enforcement officers executed a search warrant on the vehicle and recovered four loaded firearms. Bennett admitted to possessing two of the firearms: a Taurus, Model G2C, 9mm pistol; and a Spike’s Tactical, Model SL15, .223-caliber pistol.
Federal law prohibits a person with a prior felony conviction from possessing a firearm or ammunition. Bennett is prohibited from possessing firearms because of prior felony convictions for: first-degree robbery on July 13, 2010; voluntary manslaughter on July 17, 2017; and unlawful wounding on August 21, 2019, all in Kanawha County Circuit Court.
Two of the three other men have admitted to roles in the Fourth of July 2021 incident. Brian Dangelo Terry, 37, of Charleston, pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and to count of conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine. Treydan Leon Burks, 32, of Charleston, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine. Both men face sentencing on June 30, 2022. The fourth man, Douglas Johnathan Wesley, 33, of Charleston, is scheduled for trial on May 24, 2022.
The drug offenses arise from Burks’ and Terry’s participation in a drug trafficking organization (DTO) responsible for distributing large quantities of methamphetamine in Kanawha County. Of the 17 defendants charged in the DTO conspiracy, 11 others have also pleaded guilty: Ramon David Alston, Jonathan Gregory Bush, Kaitlyn Brooke Combs, Kelly Cordle, Denise Marie Cottrill, Shane Kelly Fulkerson, Brittany Frances Gilbert, Angie Lane Harbour, Scott Edward Hudson, Jason Robert Oxley, and Michael Antonio Smith. Timothy Wayne Dodd was convicted on March 24, 2022, following a two-day jury trial. In addition to Wesley, Leo Antoine Smith, 38, of Cross Lanes, also faces trial on May 24, 2022.
“The collaborative approach of our law enforcement partners allowed for a quick response that averted a real potential for bloodshed,” said United States Attorney Will Thompson. “I commend the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Charleston Police Department, the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department, and the Metropolitan Drug Enforcement Network Team (MDENT) for their excellent investigative work in this case.”
United States District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin imposed the sentence. Assistant United States Attorney Joshua Hanks prosecuted the case.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. Related court documents and information can be found on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:21-cr-172, 2:21-cr-00171, and 2:21-cr-00211.