A federal judge has denied a defense motion to drop several charges in the slaying of a Waynesboro
auxiliary police captain. Earlier this month, defense attorneys for the six alleged gang members
accused of a series of armed robberies under the Hobbs Act, as well as the kidnapping and killing
of Kevin Quick, filed a motion to drop several firearms charges. The attorneys argued the charges
are not predicated on “crimes of violence,” according to court documents.
Siblings Daniel Mathis, Shantai Shelton and Mersadies Shelton, as well as Kweli Uhuru, Anthony
Stokes and Halisi Uhuru are charged.
The defense argued in their motion that Hobbs Act robbery, kidnapping and murder do not qualify as
crimes of violence becausethey “do not necessarily require the use, attempted use or threatened use of
physical force,” court documents said.
In his written opinion Monday, U.S. District Judge Glen Conrad denied the motion and concluded the
defense’s arguments were without merit. Conrad wrote that although certain methods used to kill
someone may not use direct physical force — such as poison — the act of knowingly harming someone
else is enough to qualify a crime as a violent one.
In his reasoning, Conrad cited decisions made by the Supreme Court and wrote that it doesn’t matter if
the harm occurs directly or indirectly, but that “under the defendant’s reasoning, ‘one could say that
pulling the trigger on a gun is not a “use of force” because it is the bullet, not the
trigger, that actually strikes the victim,’” according to the documents.
Following the decision, Frederick T. Heblich Jr., an attorney for Mathis, said the defense was not
surprised, but said the issue has been litigated all over the country in hundreds of cases.
“We expected the ruling, but the issue will ultimately be decided in the appellate courts,” Heblich said.
Citing the case of Johnson v. United States from last June — in which the court found part of the Armed
Career Criminal Act to be unconstitutionally vague — Heblich said not all of the crimes included can be
considered crimes of violence. He said the statute is too broad and includes too many scenarios.
In his decision, Conrad found that the crimes of armed robbery, kidnapping and murder qualified as
crimes of violence, no matter the methods used.
“District judges have been following a predictable course to deny the motions and say it’s an incorrect
argument,” Heblich said. “We were not surprised,
but that’s not going to be the final decision.”
The trial is set to begin Monday in Roanoke’s federal court. The case was moved from Charlottesville
after a mistrial in May.
Lauren Berg can be reached at email@example.com or (434) 978-7263.