Persistent gang members sentenced to 4+ years in prison for illegal firearms possession

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Seattle – Two Seattle men, with connections to violent street gangs and drive-by shootings, were sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle for illegally possessing firearms, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown.  Both Sytrel Defranco Butler, 26, and Leo Myron Dickerson, 25, were sentenced to 54 months in prison and three years of supervised release. At the sentencing hearing Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez told the men they need to make different choices, “otherwise your future is being in prison over and over again, or being dead.”

“For the last five years, these two men have been repeatedly involved with guns and violence – indeed they have repeatedly documented their firearm addiction on social media,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown.  “The sentences imposed in the past did not stop their criminal conduct.  Now, these longer federal prison terms will protect the public.  We can only hope the federal prison time will break the cycle of guns and violence and get them to change their ways.”

A review of state and federal court records paint a disturbing record of men with gang ties who are repeatedly illegally possessing weapons.  Butler was prosecuted in King County in 2017, when he came to the attention of Kent Police who were investigating a series of drive-by shootings.  In that case, Butler was shown on video possessing an AK-47 style assault rifle.  Butler has been shot twice between 2015 and 2017 and was prosecuted for a retaliatory drive-by shooting in 2015.  In 2018, Butler was charged federally with illegal firearms possession.  The arrest followed the investigation of a drive-by shooting where an innocent person living next to the target was almost hit and killed.

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Dickerson too has been repeatedly caught with firearms.  He was prosecuted for two incidents in 2018 where he was caught illegally possessing firearms.  The guns were assault rifles and Glocks with extended magazines.  By May 2019, Dickerson was back on the streets and implicated in a shooting in Kent.  He was arrested in a car that contained a backpack with three firearms. The investigation revealed that one of the guns had been used at a shooting in Kent and another at a shooting in Seattle.

In 2020, Butler and Dickerson had their supervised release revoked due to a video where they were seen with other felons and pictured with firearms.  Dickerson was arrested later that year for illegally possessing firearms.  Butler was arrested and had his supervised release revoked for drug dealing and firearms possession following a traffic accident in SeaTac.

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In July 2021, Butler was investigated in connection with a homicide in Seattle.  The case remains under investigation.  As part of the investigation, law enforcement monitored the men’s social media.  In various posts both Butler and Dickerson were shown with weapons.  A warrant was issued for their arrests due to the supervised release violations.  On August 19, 2021, the men were arrested at Saltwater State Park in Des Moines.  When law enforcement moved in, the two men threw handguns into the woods near where they were sitting.  One gun was a Glock with an extended magazine, and the other was a stolen handgun.  In addition to the handguns, two other AR-style pistols were found in a bag near the men, and in one of their vehicles.

In its request for a 5-year sentence, prosecutors wrote to the court that the “conduct is part of a recidivist pattern of criminal activity during which – for years – Butler and Dickerson consistently have possessed loaded firearms and associated with fellow gang members and felons under dangerous circumstances. Simply put, whenever Butler and Dickerson are not in custody, they possess firearms and revert to associating with the same criminal actors.”

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Chief Judge Martinez sentenced Butler to 42 months in prison on the current criminal case, with another year to run consecutive for his supervised release violations.  For Dickerson, Chief Judge Martinez imposed two years for the supervised release violations with a consecutive 30-month sentence for the gun possession at Saltwater State Park.  “That was extremely serious,” the Chief Judge said, “Putting others in the community in grave danger.”

“The sentences these two men received should hopefully, and finally, send the message to them that their actions endangered not only themselves but the community as a whole,” said ATF Seattle Special Agent in Charge Jonathan T. McPherson.  “While Mr. Butler and Mr. Dickerson are off the streets now, ATF continues to investigate those who turn to the illegal use of firearms in our effort to make our communities safer.”

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) and the Seattle Police Department and Kirkland Police Department.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Todd Greenberg.