A Naranja man arrested in February with a stolen handgun after a traffic stop on Card Sound Road is looking at life in prison if he's convicted in federal court, according to a indictment handed down by grand jurors in Miami.
Darin Lynn James, 47, formerly known as Darin Booker, was charged on Feb. 8 with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, carrying a concealed firearm, and possession of marijuana after other drivers on Card Sound Road reported his erratic driving.
Those state charges remain pending before circuit Judge Luis Garcia at the state courthouse in Plantation Key after James pleaded not guilty in March. His next court date is set for July 8.
James now faces a federal charge of a felon in possession of a firearm, which carries a minimum sentence of 15 years and a maximum of life, according to court documents.
At issue for James, and what appears to have warranted federal interest in what would likely otherwise be a pedestrian case, is that James has more than a dozen previous convictions, mostly cocaine related, according to Florida Department of Corrections records.
He's also been convicted of robbery, including robbery with a deadly weapon.
Assistant State Attorney Mark Wilson declined to comment on the federal case. Wilson became a special assistant United States attorney (SAUSA) in September. That means he can now prosecute both federal and state cases. In this case, he will be operating as a federal prosecutor.
Another state prosecutor in Plantation Key is handling the state charges pending against James.
Typically, SAUSA prosecutors are assigned to other federal agencies outside the Department of Justice, such as the Internal Revenue Service or Coast Guard, but the Florida Keys is a unique area in that no full-time assistant U.S. attorney is assigned here.
The case began when a Monroe County Sheriff's Office deputy was flagged down by another driver just before 5 a.m. Feb. 8. The driver told the deputy that while he was traveling south on Card Sound Road a vehicle was tailgating and flashing its high beams at him for miles, according to reports.
The motorist reported the car suddenly turned off its lights and turned off the road at the south end of the bridge. The deputy found five people in a silver Nissan Altima parked in the area. There was a strong odor of marijuana coming from inside, he reported. The deputy noticed what looked like a gun in the back seat, so he called for backup, reports state.
That gun turned out to be a toy, but a real, loaded Springfield .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun was found in front of one of the passengers, James, who reportedly admitted the gun was his.
"He said a friend gave it to him earlier in the evening," according to a sheriff's office press release.
The others in the car were released. James was taken to the Monroe County Detention Center in Plantation Key.