A federal judge sentenced Darise Cortez Austin, age 29, on Friday for carjacking and possession of a firearm during a crime of violence that occurred in Birmingham.
The sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town and Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Acting Special Agent in Charge Frank Haera.
U.S. District Judge Corey Maze sentenced Austin to 144 months in prison for carjacking and possession of a firearm during of a crime of violence. Austin pleaded guilty in February.
“This sentence is another great example of our office and law enforcement partners working together to remove another violent criminal from our communities,” Town said. “Violent criminals who plague our streets will continue to be targets for federal prosecution where the debt to society is full price. No discounts. No parole.”
ATF Acting Special Agent in Charge, Frank Haera stated, “Removing the criminal element that uses a firearm to facilitate violent crimes such as carjacking is a priority of ATF. This joint collaboration of our local, state and federal partners as part of DOJ’s national strategy “Project Guardian” aided in one less gun on the streets. This focused investigation will have a lasting impact within this community.”
Austin lives in the Ensley neighborhood of Birmingham. Ensley was incorporated in 1899 and was once a thriving industrial community with its own downtown; but since being incorporated into Birmingham by the state legislature in 1910 many of the steel mils and foundries there have closed down, the city’s commercial center has fallen into decay, and the city/neighborhood has experienced a severe decline and rising poverty.
According to the plea agreement, Austin, while armed with a firearm, approached a Birmingham victim outside of the victim’s apartment. While pointing the firearm at the victim, Austin took the victim’s keys, wallet, and a Taurus .357 caliber pistol. Austin then stole the victim’s 2007 Nissan Altima and left the residence. Austin used the victim’s debit card at several different places. Fortunately, Austin’s crime spree was ended when an Alabama State Troopers found Austin in Lawrence County. Austin attempted to elude the State Trooper. During the motor vehicle pursuit that reached speeds of 102 miles per hour, Austin crashed the stolen Nissan. Law enforcement then detained and arrested him.
This case is part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Initiated by the Attorney General in the fall of 2019. According to the DOJ, Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensures that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities.
The ATF investigated the case along with the Birmingham Police Department, and ALEA. Assistant U.S Attorney Kristy Peoples prosecuted the case.