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U.S. Department of Justice Busy In Florida

U.S. Department of Justice seal with headline: DOJ, busy in Florida

FLORIDA – The United States Attorney's Office (USAO) closed out March in Florida with cases ranging from Lake City to Miami and Ocala to Pensacola. The indictments and crimes range from firearms possession by a convicted felon, drug offenses, targeted attacks on pregnancy resource facilities, and a guilty plea by an Assistant U.S. Attorney for conflict of interest.

Closest to Home: Lake City – Firearm & Drug Offences

In Jacksonville, Chief U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Corrigan sentenced John Nathan Hemingway (52, Lake City) to federal prison for possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine, and cocaine base – also known as “crack” cocaine – and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

On October 4, 2022, Mr. Hemingway pleaded guilty. As part of his plea, he agreed to forfeit the cash, firearm, and ammunition found in his home.

What exactly happened? On multiple occasions, a confidential informant purchased crack cocaine that Mr. Hemingway had supplied at his home in Lake City.

Following these controlled purchases, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives obtained a federal search warrant authorizing the search of Mr. Hemingway’s home. Then, on February 15, 2022, law enforcement searched Mr. Hemingway’s home and found a digital scale, plastic baggies, more than $11,000 in cash, a loaded semi-automatic pistol, methamphetamine, powder cocaine, and crack cocaine.

Mr. Hemingway was sentenced to nine years in federal prison.

This case was part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN). You can read more about Project Safe Neighborhoods here.

Now, Down to Winter Haven, Hollywood, and Hialeah:
Defendants Charged with Civil Rights Conspiracy Targeting Pregnancy Resource Centers

A federal grand jury in the Middle District of Florida returned a superseding indictment charging two additional Florida residents with federal crimes arising from targeted attacks on pregnancy resource facilities.

An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

According to the superseding indictment, Gabriella Oropesa and Annarella Rivera, along with previously indicted Caleb Freestone, 27, and Amber Smith-Stewart, 23, were engaged in a conspiracy to prevent employees of reproductive health services facilities from providing those services.

As part of the conspiracy, the defendants allegedly targeted pregnancy resource facilities and vandalized those facilities with spray-painted threats. Some of the co-conspirators are alleged to have spray-painted threats, including "If abortions aren't safe than niether [sic] are you,” “YOUR TIME IS UP!!,” “WE’RE COMING for U,” and “We are everywhere,” on a reproductive health services facility in Winter Haven, Florida. Facilities in Hollywood, Florida, and Hialeah, Florida, were also allegedly targeted.

The superseding indictment also alleges that Ms. Rivera, Mr. Freestone, and Ms. Smith-Stewart violated the FACE Act by using threats of force to intimidate and interfere with the employees of a reproductive health services facility in Winter Haven because those employees were providing or seeking to provide reproductive health services. The superseding indictment further alleges that Ms. Rivera, Mr. Freestone, and Ms. Smith-Stewart violated the FACE Act by intentionally damaging and destroying the facility's property because the facility provides reproductive health services.

If convicted, the accused each face up to a maximum of 12 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and fines of up to $350,000. Ms. Oropesa faces up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.

The FBI Tampa Field Office investigated the case, with assistance from the FBI Miami Field Office, the Miami Police Department, the Hialeah Police Department, and the Hollywood Police Department.

Nine-Time Convicted Felon Indicted For Possession Of A Firearm

United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announced the return of an indictment charging Brady Williams (27, Ocala) with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Mr. Williams faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison if convicted.

According to the indictment, on January 13, 2023, Mr. Williams knowingly possessed a Heritage Arms firearm.

Mr. Williams is a nine-time convicted felon, including offenses of fleeing or attempting to elude law enforcement, grand theft of a motor vehicle, and owning or operating a chop shop. As a convicted felon, he is prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition under federal law.

This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Lake County Sheriff's Office. Assistant United States Attorney Sarah Janette Swartzberg will prosecute it.

This case is also part of Project Safe Neighborhoods.

Lastly, Pensacola: Assistant U.S. Attorney Pleads Guilty to Conflict of Interest Violation

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Drey, 55, of Pensacola, pleaded guilty to illegally steering contracts to her spouse, violating the federal criminal conflict of interest statute.

According to court documents, Ms. Drey directed contracts from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Florida to companies where her spouse had a financial interest, including while serving as chief of the office’s Civil Division. Drey concealed her spouse’s financial interest in contracts to conduct title searches in litigation defended by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said, “Kathryn Drey committed a federal crime by enriching her family at the expense of her duty to the American people. The Department of Justice is committed to holding accountable public servants who act with unlawful conflicts of interest, prioritizing financial gain over their ethical duties.”

Special Agent in Charge James F. Boyersmith of the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (DOJ-OIG) Miami Field Office said, "The public trusts Department of Justice employees to act with the highest integrity. Instead, Drey acted in her own self-interest to improperly profit from her official position. DOJ-OIG is committed to rooting out this kind of egregious misconduct and bringing perpetrators to justice.”

Ms. Drey pleaded guilty to one count of acting with a conflict of interest. She is scheduled to be sentenced on June 28 and faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The DOJ-OIG investigated the case.

Trial Attorneys Lauren Castaldi and Nicholas Cannon of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section are prosecuting the case.

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