COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced Wednesday that Maleik Houseal of Newberry, was sentenced to almost 6.5 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Evidence presented to the court showed at approximately 2:12 a.m. on September 16, 2017, a shooting between a group of rival gang members from Newberry occurred outside the Empire Supper Club in the Vista entertainment district of Columbia. It was a college football weekend and the Vista area was full of people. A total of seven people, including Houseal, were shot during the incident.
The investigation revealed that Houseal had been shot in the hip two weeks earlier and was involved in an ongoing gang dispute in Newberry. The investigation showed that when the club closed at 2:00 a.m., Houseal went to the parking lot and retrieved a firearm from the top of a car tire, where he had it stored. Armed with the firearm, he returned to the sidewalk area outside of the club where he encountered the other group of individuals from Newberry who were headed to their cars in the parking lot.
As the other group left the club parking lot, they fired weapons from their cars in Houseal’s direction, striking Houseal and others. Houseal ran after the cars while firing his 9mm handgun in their direction, discharging all 15 rounds. He then discarded the handgun in a pile of chairs outside the club, where it was later recovered.
Federal law prohibits Houseal from possessing firearms and ammunition based upon his prior state convictions for second degree burglary, carrying a firearm in a public building/adjacent area, carrying an unlawful weapon (two separate convictions),third degree burglary, obstruction of justice, and possession with intent to distribute marijuana. At the time of the September 2017 shooting, Houseal was both on state probation and on state bonds for incidents that occurred after his release from the South Carolina Department of Corrections in May 2017.
United States District Judge Mary Geiger Lewis of Columbia sentenced Houseal to 77 months in federal prison, to be followed by a three year term of court-ordered supervision. There is no parole in the federal system. In denying Houseal’s motion for a reduced sentence based upon his assertion that the other group fired shots first and that he was merely defending himself, Judge Lewis stated, “to pop off 15 rounds in a crowded area is about the most irresponsible and careless and thoughtless thing you could do.”
Noting Houseal’s extensive criminal record at the age of 23 and his propensity for firearms, the court stated “you’re exactly the reason we have [firearm] laws like that.”
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Columbia Police Department, and the Richland County Sheriff’s Department. It was prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime.
Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.
Assistant United States Attorney Stacey D. Haynes of the Columbia office prosecuted the case.