Two federal trials for crimes allegedly committed in Oak Ridge, including one that involved an alleged bank extortion attempt, have been rescheduled.
The first trial had been scheduled for Tuesday, March 29, in U.S. District Court in Knoxville. But it has been rescheduled for 9 a.m. Monday, November 7. That trial is for Michael Anthony Benanti, 43, of Lake Harmony, Pennsylvania.
Benanti and a co-defendant, Brian Scott Witham, 45, of Waterville, Maine, had been named in a 15-count indictment issued by a federal grand jury in December. They were accused of kidnapping family members and robbing or attempting to rob three banks and credit unions in Oak Ridge, Knoxville, and Elizabethton. The Y-12 Federal Credit Union in Oak Ridge was one of the three financial institutions that was targeted.
Witham pleaded guilty March 1. His sentencing is set for August 17. He reportedly faces a minimum 42-year prison term, but could receive a life term.
Benanti and Witham had each faced a minimum mandatory sentence of 142 years in prison, if convicted on all 15 federal charges. The charges include bank extortion, attempted bank extortion, carjacking, and brandishing a firearm while committing a crime.
Besides Y-12 Federal Credit Union in Oak Ridge, the other two financial institutions targeted in the armed extortion attempts were SmartBank on Advantage Place in Knoxville and Northeast Community Credit Union on Jason Witten Way in Elizabethton, according to prosecutors. As part of his plea agreement, Witham has agreed to plead guilty to similar charges from three other federal jurisdictions, federal officials said.
The second federal trial that has been rescheduled is for Larry Dewayne Williams, who is facing a federal gun charge after a shooting and crash in north Oak Ridge in September. Williams was indicted by a federal grand jury in October on one count of being a convicted felon who possessed a gun and ammunition. Authorities said police found a pistol and ammunition manufactured outside Tennessee in his house and car.
The trial had initially been scheduled to start Tuesday, January 12, in U.S. District Court in Knoxville. But after reviewing the case, U.S. District Court Judge Pamela Reeves agreed late last year that Williams needed additional time to prepare his case, and government prosecutors didn’t object, according to court records. The new trial date was Tuesday, April 5 (today).
But that date has since been rescheduled to 9 a.m. Tuesday, June 21.
Williams allegedly fled from Oak Ridge police in a silver Infiniti after a September 21 shooting on Wakefield Road. After he allegedly ran from the car following a three-vehicle crash at North Illinois Avenue and West Outer Drive, Oak Ridge Police Department Officer James Elkins found an AR-15 type firearm on the passenger floorboard of Williams’ Infiniti and a semi-automatic pistol lying inside, authorities said.
During the hunt for Williams, an Anderson County Sheriff’s Department K-9 tracked Williams to a nearby home at 612 West Outer Drive, a house that Williams shares with Chelsea Lively. Inside that house, police found hand gun cases and gun magazines in plain view, according to an affidavit that accompanied a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court on October 2.
They also allegedly found about two ounces of suspected heroin and roughly 7.72 ounces of suspected marijuana.
A loaded Armscor .45-caliber pistol found in Williams’ car and all of the ammunition possessed by Williams, including a single round of 9mm ammunition found in the Infiniti, were manufactured outside Tennessee, affecting interstate commerce, the affidavit said.
Search warrants were obtained for the home and Williams’ vehicle, authorities said.
When they searched the car, police found two firearms: a loaded Mohawk Armory .223 caliber pistol and a loaded Armscor .45 caliber pistol, according to Special Agent Rebecca Bobich of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. They also found a single round of 9mm ammunition, according to the affidavit.
When they searched the home, the affidavit said, police found the suspected heroin and marijuana and plastic baggies, a Triton digital scale, .45 caliber ammunition, .223 caliber ammunition, and gun cases and gun magazines.
Authorities have previously said that Lively is also facing charges in the case.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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