Two accused kidnappers waive hearing, one sent to federal court.

Two men accused in a Jan. 9 kidnapping pleaded guilty Tuesday to lesser charges in a deal with Carson City prosecutors. A third man will face weapons charges in federal court.

Sam Grim, 18, and Thomas Johnson, 27, face up to a year in Carson City jail after pleading guilty to gross misdemeanor charges of false imprisonment. Assistant Deputy District Attorney David Morandi said they will be sentenced in the next few weeks in district court.

James Watkins, 23, faces an additional weapons charge for allegedly being a felon in possession of a firearm. Investigators believe Watkins threw a gun from a window during a short pursuit of the three suspects. Two guns were believed to be used in the incident.

All three men are from Las Vegas.

Prosecutors dropped the charges against Watkins, who subsequently was arrested on a U.S. District Court warrant. The move to relocate Watkins for trial is part of a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms effort to crack down on weapons violations, said Deputy District Attorney Anne Langer.

"The feds have a policy interest in prosecuting these cases," she said. "This seemed like the perfect situation."

Watkins's case is the first in Carson City that has been relocated to federal court under a relatively new program that has been tested in jurisdictions around the country.

Federal agents said Tuesday that a similar program has been in place in Las Vegas and plans are in the works to create a Northern Nevada counterpart. The program, which is named Exile countrywide, will officially be in place in the near future.

Federal prosecution can potentially carry with it a stiffer penalty and greater difficulty in earning early release on weapons charges, Langer said. A federal prisoner is eligible to earn only 55 days a year in early release time for good behavior; a county prisoner can cut their sentence by as much as one-third.

The three men were arrested Jan. 9 when emergency dispatchers received 911 calls from a man who told the operators he was beaten during a drug deal that went bad. The men were believed to have absconded with a friend of the caller who was unidentified.


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