Columbia, South Carolina: Kenyada Jaqu Convicted of Drug and Firearms Crimes in First Federal Criminal Jury Trial Since Pandemic
(STL.News) – United States Attorney Peter M. McCoy, Jr. announced today that Kenyada Jaqu, 45, of Columbia, was convicted following a jury trial in federal court for possession with intent to distribute heroin and methamphetamine, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute heroin and methamphetamine, being a felon in possession of firearms, and possessing firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking. This was the first criminal trial in the District of South Carolina since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This office has not rested in its efforts to protect the people of South Carolina, to uphold the rule of law, and to vigorously prosecute lifelong criminals like Mr. Jaqu. This work will not stop.” said U.S. Attorney McCoy. “I commend our team’s success, which would not have been possible without the diligent work of the DEA and the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.”
“The successful results of this investigation should let career criminals like Mr. Jaqu know that those who flood our streets with dangerous drugs like heroin and methamphetamine, will ultimately be brought to justice,” said Robert J. Murphy, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Atlanta Field Division. “DEA remains committed to removing dangerous drug dealers who make a living poisoning our communities.”
“This guy has been a thorn in our side for years,” said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott. “He had just been released from state prison on drug charges, when he was arrested by us — again. So, I’m glad that this joint operation has led to charges that will keep him off our streets for a long time.”
Evidence presented by the Government during the three-day trial established that on March 11, 2019, Jaqu was a passenger in a car stopped by a deputy with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department. During a subsequent search of the vehicle, the deputy located several suspected controlled substances. Later that day, law enforcement searched a hotel room and a residence associated with Jaqu, where they found two firearms, additional suspected controlled substances, and drug paraphernalia. Additional investigation revealed that Jaqu’s drug trafficking activities stretched back at least as far as March, 2015. Federal law prohibits Jaqu from possessing firearms due to prior state felony convictions for attempted strong arm robbery, distribution of heroin, and possession of heroin.
United States District Judge J. Michelle Childs presided over the trial and will sentence Jaqu after receiving and reviewing a pre-sentence report prepared by the United States Probation Office. Jaqu faces at least fifteen years in federal prison. During the trial, the court took additional safety measures in light of the pandemic. Large, plexiglass shields separated the jurors, the movement of attorneys about the courtroom was limited, and attorneys and witnesses wore masks unless they were speaking.
The case was investigated by the DEA and Richland County Sheriff’s Department. Assistant United States Attorneys Jason Peavy of the Columbia office and Katherine Flynn of the Florence office are prosecuting the case.