Darryl Spears, 25, of Trenton, was sentenced to 15 years in state prison, including five years of parole ineligibility, by Superior Court Judge Andrew J. Smithson in Mercer County. Spears was convicted at trial on Nov. 18 of all counts against him in a state grand jury indictment charging him with unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of a firearm as a convicted felon – both second-degree offenses – as well as fourth-degree unlawful disposition of a firearm. The state presented testimony and evidence during the trial that on Aug. 29, 2012, during the course of an undercover investigation by the New Jersey State Police, Spears illegally sold a 9mm semi-automatic pistol for $500 on Ward Street in Trenton.
The charge of possession of a weapon as a convicted felon carries a mandatory period of parole ineligibility of five years. Spears had a prior conviction for aggravated assault. The state sought an extended-term sentence, which the judge imposed.
Deputy Attorney General Mary P. Murphy tried the case and handled the sentencing for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau.
“The proliferation of illegal guns in the hands of gang members, drug dealers and convicted felons fuels the violence that rips apart the community in Trenton,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “We’re working with the city police, the county prosecutor and other law enforcement partners to fight violence using innovative programs, and we’ll continue to use our tough gun laws to lock up weapons traffickers like Spears.”
“We’re working closely with the New Jersey State Police to target gun traffickers in Trenton and throughout New Jersey,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Each illegal gun we seize and each gunman we put behind bars potentially represents a life saved.”
Detective Sgt. Jeffrey Gauthier was the lead detective for the New Jersey State Police Weapons Trafficking South Unit, under the supervision of Lt. Eric Barlow. Deputy Attorney General Cassandra Serentino presented the case to the state grand jury, and Deputy Attorney General Erik Daab, who is Deputy Chief of the Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, assisted in the prosecution.
Spears was among more than 65 defendants indicted in 2013 by the Division of Criminal Justice in connection with nearly 100 illegal guns. Those indictments stemmed from an ongoing statewide initiative launched by the Attorney General’s Office in 2012, in which the Division of Criminal Justice and the State Police are aggressively targeting gun violence through strategic investigations focused on seizing existing weapons in violent areas, disrupting weapons trafficking into those areas, and aggressively prosecuting criminals involved in the illegal sale and possession of guns.
In addition to that statewide initiative, the Attorney General’s Office has targeted gun violence in Trenton through an innovative two-pronged strategy. On Aug. 15, 2013, Acting Attorney General Hoffman announced the implementation in Trenton and Mercer County of TIDE-TAG, a strategy led by the State Police, Trenton Police and Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office that has deployed more state troopers and other law enforcement personnel under TIDE to suppress shootings in the most violent neighborhoods of Trenton, while focusing efforts on arresting and aggressively prosecuting gang members, repeat offenders and drug dealers who carry guns in public. Under TAG, which applies countywide, the Attorney General has mandated that prosecutors will make no plea offer that is less than a minimum 3 ½ years without parole to a “tagged” offender charged with unlawful possession of a gun. The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office has charged 267 defendants under the TAG initiative.