News Release
October 3, 2007
Thomas Murphy

Mt. Vernon Men Convicted After Federal Jury Trial

OCT 3 -- Benton, IL - Randy G. Massey, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced today that on September 26, 2007, DAMIAN Y. JAMES, a/k/a “Ree,” age 34, of Mt. Vernon, Illinois, and ROBERT M. HARRIS, a/k/a “Trash,” age 29, of Mt. Vernon, Illinois, were convicted on all counts following a jury trial in United States District Court in Benton, Illinois.

Both JAMES and HARRIS were convicted of one count of conspiracy to distribute fifty (50) grams or more of crack cocaine. The conspiracy began in February 2003, and continued through March 2007, in Jefferson County, Illinois, St. Louis, Missouri, and Memphis, Tennessee. JAMES was also convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm and on two separate counts of distribution of less than 5 grams of crack cocaine in violation of federal law. The two distributions occurred on October 2, 2003, in Jefferson County, and the firearm possession occurred on November 25, 2006.

Both defendants are scheduled to be sentenced in January 2008. Both defendants are currently in the custody of the United States Marshal Service pending sentencing.

The conspiracy conviction carries with it a potential sentence of a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, a fine of up to $4,000,000, and a term of at least 5 years of supervised release. A conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm, carries with it a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of up to 3 years of supervised release. Each of the distribution counts carries a penalty of up to 30 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $2,000,000, and a term of at least 6 years of supervised release.

The investigation in this case was a cooperative effort between the Joint Narcotics Unit of the Mt. Vernon Police Department and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Illinois State Police, the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, pursuant to their participation in the Project Safe Neighborhoods Initiative.

Project Safe Neighborhoods is a joint and cooperative effort of the United States Attorney’s
Office, the Jefferson County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies directed at removing guns and drugs from our communities.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney George Norwood.