• 39°

Career criminal sentenced to 19 years

A Washington man received a lengthy prison sentence for a lifetime of criminal activity.

Beginning after the eight-year term he is currently serving in the state prison system, Rodney Lucas, 41, formerly a resident of West 15th Street, will serve a 19-year federal jail term, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Rodney Lucas

In October 2009, Lucas was arrested by the Washington Police Department and charged with selling a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school, resisting arrest and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

It was the drugs-and-guns element, as well as the fact that Lucas had prior state convictions that led the U.S. Attorney’s Office to assume prosecution.

“Depending on the charges, violations or a person’s history, sometimes the federal people will take the case,” said Lt. William Chrismon of the WPD. “We don’t charge federal charges. We do state law. But if a person fits a certain criteria, we’ll pass it along and they’ll take it over from there.”

Though Lucas was charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office with possession of a firearm and the accompanying ammunition by a felon, the 19-year sentence reflects Lucas’ habitual-felon status rather than the charges — the result of a court action granting a motion of upward departure. The motion is a request for stricter sentencing based on a defendant’s past criminal history.

Lucas has 59 prior convictions over a 20-year span. According to Chrismon, the WPD last arrested Lucas in August 2010 on an assault charge; in May of that year, he was arrested on a charge of dealing a controlled substance at a child care center. From 2007 until the last time he was arrested in 2010, Lucas was arrested eight times.

“The (officers) who have to deal with seeing him time and time again — we wonder when they’re finally going to keep him,” said Chrismon. “We hate to send anybody off. We want to see people turn their lives around and stay out of trouble.

“Not all people who are arrested are bad people. Some people just make bad decisions,” he added.

The case was part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative, a program that encourages federal, state and local agencies to cooperate in a unified “team effort” against gun crime, targeting repeat offenders who continually plague their communities, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office press release.