For Immediate Release
Columbia Man Pleads Guilty to Illegal Firearms
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A Columbia, Missouri, man who was arrested after crashing his car in a high-speed chase pleaded guilty in federal court today to illegally possessing firearms.
James Earl Sanders Jr., 31, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Willie J. Epps Jr. to two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Sanders was arrested on two separate occasions – once, while riding a stolen scooter, and again, following a pursuit by police officers that ended when he crashed into a tree. On both occasions, Sanders was illegally in possession of a firearm.
Under federal law, it is illegal for anyone who has been convicted of a felony to be in possession of any firearm or ammunition. Sanders has two prior felony convictions for burglary and a prior felony conviction for attempted robbery.
Sanders was arrested on July 24, 2018, when a Columbia police officer saw him riding a Yamaha Zuma 50cc scooter that had been reported stolen. When Sanders pulled into a Steak and Shake restaurant, the officer contacted him and learned there was a warrant for his arrest. The officer grabbed Sanders’ wrist, but Sanders pulled away and ran. Sanders ran approximately 10 feet before the officer grabbed him by his shoulders and placed him on the ground. Another officer pointed his Taser at Sanders, who complied from that point and placed his hands behind his back.
Sanders had a loaded Taurus semi-automatic handgun in his front pocket at the time of his arrest. The handgun had been reported stolen. He also had what appeared to be 37 counterfeit $5 bills, all with the same serial number.
Sanders was arrested again on Sept. 30, 2018, when a Jefferson City, Missouri, police officer attempted to stop him for speeding. Rather than stopping when the officer activated his emergency lights, however, Sanders accelerated the Mercury Cougar he was driving. The Cougar reached a speed of approximately 67 miles per hour on Chestnut Street. Sanders attempted to turn east onto Fairmount Boulevard, but lost control of the car and struck a tree at the intersection of Chestnut Street and Fairmount Boulevard.
Sanders threw a loaded Smith & Wesson 9mm pistol out of the window as the officer approached. Sanders and a passenger were ordered to get out of the vehicle and Sanders was placed under arrest. Sanders had seven arrest warrants, including a federal arrest warrant for the indictment following the July 24, 2018, arrest.
Under federal statutes, Sanders is subject to a sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison without parole on each of the two convictions. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence E. Miller. It was investigated by the Columbia, Mo., Police Department, the Jefferson City, Mo., Police Department, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Project Safe Neighborhoods
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is partnering with federal, state, and local law enforcement to specifically identify criminals responsible for significant violent crime in the Western District of Missouri. A centerpiece of this effort is Project Safe Neighborhoods, a program that brings together all levels of law enforcement to reduce violent crime and make neighborhoods safer for everyone. Project Safe Neighborhoods is an evidence-based program that identifies the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develops comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, Project Safe Neighborhoods focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.
This news release, as well as additional information about the office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, is available on-line at