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April 25, 2001 – Wayne Chinnery — onetime Law Enforcement Planning Commission director, head of the territory's Narcotics Strike Force, WTJX-TV talk-show host and candidate for governor and senator — has been charged with federal civil rights and firearm violations and a territorial crime of third-degree assault.
U.S. Attorney David Atkinson announced the unsealing of the indictment containing the charges against the St. Thomas lawyer on Wednesday. If convicted, Chinnery could face up to 10 years in prison and/or fines up to $280,000.
In the indictment, Chinnery is accused of:
– Violating the civil rights of a St. Thomas resident while he was the director of the Narcotics Strike Force, a federal offense carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
– Using a firearm during a violent crime in committing the civil rights violation, a federal offense that carries a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison.
– Third-degree assault, a territorial offense, which carries a maximum five-year sentence or a fine of $500 to $3,000, or both.
According to a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, Chinnery appeared Wednesday in District Court before Magistrate Judge Geoffrey Barnard. He was represented by Leonard Francis Jr., a onetime law partner. Barnard released Chinnery on his own recognizance, the release stated, and set arraignment on the charges for 10 a.m. May 9 in District Court.
Last July, Chinnery was charged in Territorial Court with assault against the mother of one of his children. He has entered a plea of not guilty in that case.
In October, a complaint was filed in Territorial Court accusing Chinnery in connection with a separate incident involving another woman. The complaint accused him of third-degree assault, aggravated assault and battery, and using a dangerous weapon in the commission of a crime of violence. The federal indictment announced Wednesday concerns this incident, Azekah Jennings, assistant U.S. attorney, told the Source on Thursday.
Although Chinnery appeared in Territorial Court in October for advice-of-rights proceedings, he "was never charged in Territorial Court" with the counts set forth in the complaint, Jennings said.
With regard to the federal indictment including one territorial charge, Jennings noted that under the Organic Act, which governs the territory, the U.S. Attorney's Office is "authorized to include local offenses that stem out of the same offense-conduct as any federal charges. We are the only federal jurisdiction where that's allowed."
In April 1999, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull named Chinnery to head the V.I. Law Enforcement Planning Commission, which administers federal grants for anti-crime programs in the territory. The position entailed serving as the governor's drug-policy adviser and having oversight of the strike force. The governor fired him last July shortly after the first assault charge was filed. Chinnery, who ran unsuccessfully for governor twice as an independent candidate, also was an unsuccessful candidate last fall for the 24th Legislature.
The Source sought clarification from Francis on Thursday regarding the status of the territorial counts naming his client. "I will have no comments on that at all," Francis said, hanging up the telephone before hearing the questions. There was no answer to calls placed to the Territorial Court.

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