Man Pleads Guilty to Shooting Federal Agent
COLUMBIA, SC—United States Attorney Bill Nettles stated today that James William Lewis, a/k/a “Jessie,” a/k/a “Phoenix,” age 32, of Kings Mountain, North Carolina pled guilty today in federal court. Lewis plead guilty to a 2nd/subsequent offense of use/possession/discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence, to wit: assault on a federal agent, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 924(c)(1)(A)(iii) and 924(c)(1)(C). Senior United States District Judge Joseph F. Anderson, Jr. accepted the plea and will impose a sentence after he has reviewed the presentence report, which will be prepared by the U.S. Probation Office.
Evidence presented at the change of plea hearing established that during the early morning hours of January 7, 2014, deputized task force agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Charlotte Safe Streets Task Force/Violent Crime Apprehension Team were in Fort Mill, South Carolina searching for Lewis, who was wanted for an armed robbery of a Jack-in-the-Box restaurant in North Carolina. Agents, in police attire and accompanied by York County Sheriff’s Department officers in marked units, approached the residence of Lewis’ girlfriend, Kirstie Elaine Philome Barratt, age 22, in an attempt to determine if Lewis was in the residence. After approximately 15 minutes of the agents knocking on the door and announcing their presence with a loud speaker, Barratt came to the door. Barratt, who was advised by agents that it was a crime to make a false statement to federal agents, told the agents that Lewis was not in the home, that she had not seen him for two (2) months because they had broken up, and that the only other persons in the residence were her parents. Barratt gave the agents consent to search the residence. Upon completing a sweep of the residence, agents located Barratt’s parents asleep in one upstairs bedroom and noticed the door shut to another upstairs bedroom. Agents could hear a dog barking in that other upstairs bedroom, so they asked Barratt to secure the dog so they could search the bedroom. Barratt went into the bedroom and came out with the dog. Agents then went into the bedroom and found Lewis crouched in the corner with his weapon drawn. Gunfire ensued and an FBI task force agent, as well as Lewis, was shot. Both Barratt and Lewis were taken into custody. Barratt later advised agents that she knew Lewis was in the residence, that she thought he was going to hide in the attic, and that when she entered the bedroom to retrieve the dog, she saw him in the corner with the gun, but did not tell the agents before allowing them to enter the bedroom.
On October 22, 2014, Barratt plead guilty to making a false statement to a federal agent, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001. At Barratt’s sentencing, the court granted the government’s motion for an upward departure from the federal guidelines sentencing range of 0 to six months, noting that this was a “rare” case and that Barratt “knowingly placed a law enforcement officer’s life in jeopardy” by her false statement. Barratt was sentenced to 24 months’ (two years) imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Barratt is currently in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Barratt also may face deportation as a result of her conviction.
Mr. Nettles stated that Lewis faces a statutory mandatory minimum 25 years’ imprisonment consecutive to any other term of imprisonment, a fine of $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to five years following the term of imprisonment. In July 2015, Lewis was sentenced to 108 months (nine years) in federal court in the Western District of North Carolina for the December 2013, robbery of the Jack-in-the-Box restaurant and possession of a firearm during that crime of violence, to wit: robbery. Lewis also has prior North Carolina state convictions for possession of cocaine (1999) and larceny of a motor vehicle (2000).
The case was investigated by the FBI, the York County Sheriff’s Department, and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), and was prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state and local Project CeaseFire initiative, which aggressively prosecutes firearm cases. Assistant United States Attorney Stacey D. Haynes of the Columbia office handled the case.