INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Gabriel McQuay learned a hard lesson in the aftermath of a joint IMPD/DEA raid in the 6900 block of N. Michigan Rd. last month.
Working off a tip that McQuay was allegedly selling heroin at his house, agents and detectives made controlled drug buys and conducted a search warrant January 18. What they found was approximately 250 grams of heroin/fentanyl, a stolen .40 caliber Glock model 22 handgun and McQuay, a convicted felon.
McQuay’s case was sent to a federal grand jury and on Tuesday, the north side resident got the bad news; he would be prosecuted in federal court just like nearly two dozen other offenders whose cases have been taken on by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana so far this year.
“When they hear that they are going fed, police officers have told us that they drop their head, hold their head in their hands and just say, ‘That’s it, I’m done,’” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Glickman. “What we’re trying to do is identify those violent criminals who ought not to have firearms, who are doing the shootings, doing the killings, and possessing firearms illegally, identifying them and bringing them into federal court.”
Already this year, the U.S. Attorney has taken on more than three times as many cases as during the same period in 2017, as part of the Project Safe Neighborhoods program.
When U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited Indianapolis last year, he learned the local violent crime rate was two-and-a-half times the national average as the city was on its way to a record murder total.
As a result, U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler assigned an assistant U.S. Attorney to each of the six IMPD districts in the city to work with local law enforcement, federal agents and Marion County deputy prosecutors to determine which accused violent felons should be tried in the federal system.
Two more assistant U.S. Attorneys are on the way.
“The federal system is much different,” said IMPD Deputy Chief Chris Bailey who was in Los Angeles this week with Chief Bryan Roach and Minkler to determine how LAPD presided over a reduction in its annual murder totals while utilizing data and intelligence for targeted policing. “You may not be in a prison in the state of Indiana. You may be anywhere which makes it difficult to put money on your books, people to visit you. There are really strict penalties so people should really think twice about carrying a gun around this city when they’re not supposed to have it with the possibility that they could be facing some federal time. That’s serious.”
Glickman indicated federal authorities have more tools at their disposal to curb the revolving door that finds local investigators frustrated with career criminals who bond out of jail or serve a fraction of their time close to home in a state prison.
“In certain instances we can ask magistrate judges here in U.S. District Court to hold people without bond, without bail pending their trial,” said Glickman, “We’ve sentenced people here who are doing federal time in California, in Texas, in Colorado, so if they’re arrested here and they’re convicted here, doesn’t mean that if they’re prosecuted federally they’ll stay here."
“When you’re prosecuted federally you do 85% of your sentence. There is no parole, there is no early release," Glickman went on.
Massachusetts and federal authorities in the early 1990s found great success in employing that line of investigation and charging in the Boston Gun Project, which resulted in local offenders being incarcerated across country as word spread that arrestees could not expect business-as-usual prosecutions.
At the state level, often gun convictions occur simultaneously with guilty verdicts in other crimes, leaving judges with the discretion to sentence an offender to concurrent terms.
In federal court, some gun convictions carry mandatory stand-alone sentences.
Glickman said last month, a sweep by IMPD and federal agents through the southeast side of Indianapolis, where five recent murders occurred, yielded a career criminal with a gun.
“Within 24 hours this defendant, who has a horrible criminal history, was brought in, charged here by criminal complaint in federal court and taken off the street.”
In another case, literally minutes after meeting with their IMPD partners, federal authorities were alerted to another armed suspect who was arrested downtown.
“They had someone in custody who had priors for armed robbery and battery who was in possession of a Glock forty caliber semi automatic handgun at the Circle Centre Mall.”
Glickman said the U.S. Attorneys Office is committed to the Project Safe Neighborhoods program, “for the long haul,” and expects to do a thorough review later this year to determine the success of its cooperative strategy.
“We’re gonna look at the homicide rate, we’re gonna look at the amount of shootings, non-fatal shootings, and we’re gonna really try to lower those numbers in conjunction with this program.”