(PADUCAH, Ky., January 28th, 2003, 11:30 a.m.) -- Defendants accused of using guns to commit crimes could face federal charges under a new initiative between federal and McCracken County prosecutors.
As part of Project Backfire, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Kentucky will review local cases involving firearms. Local and federal prosecutors will then decide which jurisdiction will try the case.
The program is designed to find the "swiftest and surest way to a county jail, state prison or federal penitentiary" for people charged with gun crimes, U.S. Attorney Stephen Pence said. McCracken County Attorney Dan Boaz and Commonwealth's Attorney Tim Kaltenbach joined Pence in announcing the effort on Monday.
Federal charges could result in harsher sentences for state felons, who are eligible for parole after serving 20 percent of their sentence under Kentucky's prison system, Kaltenbach said. Under the federal system, probation or parole are not available.
The possibility of federal charges gives also local prosecutors leverage when a defendant does not reach a plea agreement with the state or county.
Prosecutors in Jefferson County, Owensboro and Bowling Green also participate in the program. Pence said he wants to eventually have Project Backfire available throughout western Kentucky.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)