|TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that two Trenton men have been indicted on charges that they illegally trafficked seven guns, including an illegal sawed-off shotgun and a rifle with a prohibited large-capacity magazine, during an investigation by the New Jersey State Police.
The Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau obtained a state grand jury indictment, which was handed up in court today, charging the following men, both Trenton residents:
- Dominic Cole, 23, is charged with conspiracy (2nd degree), four counts of unlawful possession of a handgun (2nd degree), two counts of unlawful possession of a rifle (3rd degree), two counts of unlawful possession of a loaded rifle (3rd degree), possession of a prohibited sawed-off shotgun (3rd degree), unlawful disposition of a sawed-off shotgun (3rd degree), six counts of unlawful disposition of a weapon (4th degree), possession of a prohibited large-capacity magazine (4th degree), and disposition of a prohibited large-capacity magazine (4th degree).
- Edward Thorpe, 22, is charged with conspiracy (2nd degree), unlawful possession of a handgun (2nd degree), unlawful possession of a rifle (3rd degree), unlawful possession of a loaded rifle (3rd degree), and two counts of unlawful disposition of a weapon (4th degree).
The indictment alleges that Cole and Thorpe conspired to illegally traffic guns in Trenton. Between Feb. 11 and April 22, 2013, they allegedly sold seven guns at various locations in Trenton to an undercover operative working with the New Jersey State Police Weapons Trafficking Central Unit. Together, Cole and Thorpe allegedly sold a revolver and a semi-automatic rifle to the individual on separate occasions in February 2013. On four subsequent occasions, Cole allegedly sold a total of five additional guns: three revolvers, a rifle with an illegal large-capacity magazine, and a sawed-off double-barrel shotgun.
“Last week I announced that we are doubling our boots on the ground in Trenton under the TIDE-TAG initiative to stem the recent gun violence that has included the indiscriminate wounding of three mourners at a gang member’s funeral and the senseless shooting of a 9-year-old girl,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “TIDE-TAG, which was highly successful in reducing shootings last year, focuses on eliminating guns and the thugs who carry them from the streets of Trenton. This indictment complements those efforts by taking direct aim at two prolific gun traffickers who allegedly were putting more deadly firepower into the hands of criminals.”
“Cole faces numerous second-degree charges in this indictment, and Thorpe is being prosecuted under the TAG program, which means we’ll ensure that he faces a lengthy mandatory prison term without parole under New Jersey’s tough gun laws,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Locking up gun traffickers is a critical part of our efforts to protect the public in Trenton and elsewhere.”
“Those who traffic in illegal guns share part of the guilt for every person wounded or murdered by those guns,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “We will always seek to take guns off the streets by first stopping them at the source.”
Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. The second-degree weapons charges carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 3 years without parole. Third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000, while fourth-degree charges carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Deputy Attorney Cassandra Serentino presented the indictment to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau. Detective Jeffrey Gauthier was the lead detective for the New Jersey State Police Weapons Trafficking Central Unit, under the supervision of Lt. Eric Barlow and Sgt. Edward Kitts.
The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The indictment was handed up today to Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson in Mercer County. The case is assigned to Mercer County, where the defendants will be arraigned at a later date.
On Aug. 15, 2013, Acting Attorney General Hoffman announced the implementation in Trenton and Mercer County of TIDE-TAG, a strategy led by the New Jersey State Police, Trenton Police and Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office that has deployed more state troopers and other law enforcement personnel under TIDE to suppress shootings in the most violent neighborhoods of Trenton, while focusing efforts on arresting and aggressively prosecuting gang members, repeat offenders and drug dealers who carry guns in public.
TIDE-TAG proved highly successful in stemming the tide of violence in the capital city. Trenton had experienced 29 murders in the first 7 ½ months of 2013, before the initiative was launched in August. But in the roughly two months after TIDE-TAG was launched, shootings dropped by half, and only eight additional homicides occurred during the remainder of 2013, including a period between late August and mid-November when no gun homicides occurred. In the six months after TIDE-TAG was launched in Trenton, the number of people shot decreased by 38 percent and the number of gun homicides decreased by one-third compared to the six months leading up to the program’s launch.
Under the TAG program, which applies countywide, the Attorney General has mandated that prosecutors will make no plea offer that is less than a minimum 3 ½ years without parole to a “tagged” offender charged with unlawful possession of a firearm. He has prohibited the common practice of pleading out gun cases for a reduced sentence of one year without parole.
The TAG designation applies to any defendant charged with unlawful possession of a gun in public, including in a car, if any one of the following criteria is met: the defendant has a prior felony conviction; there is a substantial likelihood the defendant is involved in organized criminal activity such as a gang or drug set; the defendant has a pending indictable charge; the defendant possessed the gun while committing a drug offense; the defendant brandished or discharged the gun in public; the gun is stolen or has a defaced serial number; or the defendant resisted arrest or attempted to flee from police.