For Immediate Release
Lexington Man Gets 10 Years in Federal Prison on Firearm and Drug Charges
Columbia, South Carolina -- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Gabrielle Chase Watts, age 35, of Lexington, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, two counts of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, and distribution of methamphetamine. Senior United States District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie of Columbia imposed the sentence. After 10 years, Watts will remain under court-ordered supervision for an additional 6 years. There is no parole in the federal system.
Evidence presented in court established that on June 4, 2018, deputies with the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department used a confidential informant to purchase approximately .38 grams of methamphetamine from Watts. Additional evidence established that on June 11, 2018, officers with the West Columbia Police Department were patrolling McSwain Drive in West Columbia in reference to ongoing complaints of criminal activity. Officers received information that Watts was selling drugs from a hotel in the area. They made contact with Watts as he was knocking on the door of room 111 of the hotel, and Watts advised he was trying to make contact with the person in room 111 because he heard the person was trying to sell televisions. Officers could see a knife clipped on Watts’ pants and seized it for the duration of the contact. When Officers asked Watts if he had anything else on his person, Watts turned his right side away from them, which was consistent with someone trying to conceal something. Officers conducted a pat-down and asked Watts what else he had on him, and Watts said he had a gun in his pocket. Officers retrieved a loaded .32 Charter Arms revolver from Watts’ right front pocket as well as a baggie of approximately 5.5 grams methamphetamine and a digital scale with residue consistent with methamphetamine. Additionally, on July 19, 2018, Lexington County Sheriff’s deputies received information that Watts, who had unserved warrants from Richland County, was staying at a hotel in West Columbia. Deputies located Watts and found approximately 13 grams of methamphetamine in his hotel room.
Federal law prohibits Watts from possessing firearms and ammunition based upon multiple prior state convictions: a 2006 criminal conspiracy, a 2008 criminal domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature, a 2009 strong arm robbery and criminal conspiracy, and a 2016 possession of methamphetamine.
This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the West Columbia Police Department, and the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department. It was prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and local 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. Special Assistant United States Attorney Casey Rankin Smith of the 11th Circuit Solicitor’s Office prosecuted the case.