Memphis felon going back to jail for new drug dealing charges

Memphis, TN – Joseph Morris, 39, has been sentenced to 150 months in federal prison for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. D. Michael Dunavant, U.S. Attorney announced the sentence today.

According to information presented in court, on May 2, 2018, investigators from the Memphis Police Department went to a residence on St. Charles Street in search of the defendant who was located hiding in a back bedroom. As Morris was being placed into custody, officers smelled burnt marijuana in the house, and observed in plain view a red glass pipe laying on a television table in the living room. The glass pipe had burnt residue, which was believed to be marijuana. Officers also observed 2 boxes of ammunition and a black digital scale on top of the table behind the couch.

Officers obtained a search warrant for the residence and recovered a loaded Taurus 9 MM underneath the living room couch cushion, a common tool of the trade which drug dealers use to protect their stash and themselves from robbery. Officers recovered two clear bags of 5.60 grams of methamphetamine with a 99% purity level in a coat pocket behind the couch that the defendant hid from law enforcement.

Once detained, Morris admitted to ownership of the handgun and methamphetamine. Morris also admitted that he had been selling methamphetamine for 2 months, that he sells for approximately $50 a gram, and that he placed in the coat pocket behind the couch when he heard officers at the door.

Morris is a convicted felon, having been previously convicted of aggravated assault and a felony drug offense. He is currently on parole until July 28, 2021, for his felony drug conviction in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. As a result of his prior felony convictions, Morris is prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms and ammunition.

On August 20, 2020, the defendant pled guilty to possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

On December 21, 2020, U.S. District Court Judge Sheryl L. Lipman sentenced Morris to 150 months in federal prison followed by three years supervised release. There is no parole in the federal system.

U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant said, “We know that drugs and crime go hand-in-hand, and that drug trafficking is an inherently violent business. If you want to collect a drug debt, you can’t file a lawsuit in court; you collect it by the barrel of a gun. If you are a drug dealer with a gun, we will hold you accountable and remove you from our streets.”

This case was investigated by the Memphis Police Department and Project Safe Neighborhoods Task Force. The Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) initiative is a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.

In 2017, PSN was reinvigorated as part of the Justice Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally based strategies to reduce violent crime.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Wendy K. Cornejo and Michelle Kimbril-Parks prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.

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