Over the course of the last couple of years, there has been a concentrated effort by the United States Attorney’s Office along with some other federal organizations to form an Evansville-based grand jury, as well as a Violent Crime Initiative that would allow the use of federal resources to offer support to local authorities in prosecuting habitual, violent offenders.

Today, Robert J. Kester, 29, of Posey County was issued a federal indictment by US Attorney Joseph Hogsett stemming from charges of illegal possession of a semi-automatic pistol with two separate prior felony convictions including dealing methamphetamines in Posey County, and resisting arrest in Vanderburgh County.

Our Violent Crime Initiative aims to do one thing, and one thing only: take the worst of the worst off the streets of southwestern Indiana,” Hogsett said. “This latest conviction reiterates our dedication to stamping out violent crime through the aggressive federal prosecution of repeat, violent offenders. Just as important, it also represents the first indictment as a result of our expanded prosecution team here in Evansville.

The Violent Crime Initiative (VCI), which was put into place in March 2011, is a combined effort between local police and county prosecutors in a combative contention with those criminals who use firearms as part of their illegal trade. To date the initiative has already substantially increased federal charges associated with firearms – from 14 in 2010 to 103 last year.

There are several advantages to federal prosecution of violent crimes, Hogsett said:

• Violent criminals can often be detained before trial without bond.

• Defendants who are convicted often face longer, stiffer sentences.

• Federal rules mandate that 85 percent of a federal sentence must be served, as opposed to 50 percent of a sentence that is typically served in locally prosecuted cases.

Assistant US Attorneys responsible for prosecuting Robert Kester say that he could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 if he is convicted of possession of a weapon that he had no legal right to possess.