Convicted felon caught with a stolen gun in Athens pleads guilty in federal court


John Willie Clarke

By Joe Johnson

A convicted felon who was caught with a stolen gun after authorities were tipped off about him being armed and selling drugs in Athens has pleaded guilty for his crime, said Charlie Peeler, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia.

John Willie Clarke, 34, of Athens, pleaded guilty to one count possession of a stolen firearm before U.S. District Judge C. Ashley Royal on Wednesday. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment, a maximum fine of $250,000 and three years of supervised release. A sentencing date has not been scheduled. There is no parole in the federal system.

On Dec. 3, 2019, the Athens-Clarke County Police Department received information that Clarke was located at the Bulldog Inn on Commerce Road and was wanted on a probation warrant. The tipster stated that Clarke was armed with a large gun and sold narcotics, and also provided a description of the vehicle Clarke was traveling in as well as the tag information. Police learned that Clarke, who was a convicted felon, had left the motel and was enroute to the Circle K convenience store on US Highway 29 North. There, police approached the described vehicle and observed Clarke in the front passenger seat with a gun magazine in his lap, loaded with 25 rounds of 9mm ammunition. He was taken into custody on outstanding warrants. Inside the vehicle, police discovered a loaded 9 mm semi-automatic pistol and a stolen .380 semi-automatic pistol that Clarke admitted was purchased illegally. Plastic baggies and a methamphetamine pipe were also found inside the vehicle.

Clarke has several felony conviction dating to 2004, for offenses that include robbery, theft and possession of cocaine, according to Clarke County Superior Court records.

He also has a pending state drug case.

“We are working closely with our law enforcement partners across the Middle District of Georgia to identify and federally prosecute criminals caught with illegal firearms. Convicted felons with guns will be prosecuted, they will face prison time and there is no parole in the federal system,” said U.S. Attorney Charlie Peeler.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime.

The case is also part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws.

The case was investigated by the Northeast Georgia Regional Drug Task Force and and Athens-Clarke County Police Department.

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