CAMDEN, N.J. – A Salem County, New Jersey, man made his initial appearance today after being charged with illegally possessing a handgun, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Donyell M. Stewart, 48, of Salem, New Jersey, is charged by complaint with one count of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon. He appeared by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ann Marie Donio and was detained pending a bail hearing next week.
According to documents filed in this case:
On Aug. 31, 2020, an officer with the Salem County Sheriff’s Office attempted to conduct a stop of Stewart’s car after a 911 caller reported that Stewart’s car fled from a car accident. Stewart disregarded the officer’s signals to stop and proceeded to drive multiple blocks before pulling into the parking lot of a laundromat. Stewart exited his car with a brown handbag, from which officers later recovered a Springfield Armory XD .40 caliber pistol loaded with 10 rounds of ammunition, as well as 5.5 ounces of suspected cocaine and drug paraphernalia. Stewart has at least five prior New Jersey felony convictions for controlled substance offenses, including a New Jersey conviction for being the leader of a narcotics trafficking network.
The charge of possession of a weapon by a convicted felon is punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
This case is part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Initiated by the Attorney General in the fall of 2019, Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensured that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities. For more information about Project Guardian, please see https://www.justice.gov/projectguardian.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Charlie J. Patterson, Newark Field Division, Camden Field Office, with the investigation leading to today’s charge. He also thanked the Salem City Police Department, under the direction of Chief John A. Pelura, III; the Salem County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Sheriff Charles M. Miller; and the Salem County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor John T. Lenahan, for their assistance.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Bender of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Camden.
The charge and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.