Matthew Graves, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, doesn’t take gun crimes seriously. The result has been more murder, mayhem, and carnage across the nation’s capital. 

And now there is more data to prove that point, in the form of the 2023 annual report by the District of Columbia Sentencing Commission.

The Sentencing Commission’s report focuses exclusively on how Graves handled cases last year in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia. The report doesn’t cover cases in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, where Graves has the option of bringing many cases.  

In the interests of transparency and government accountability, we have sent a request under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, to Graves to find out how many cases of a felon in possession of a firearm have been sent by the prosecutor’s office to the federal District Court, as opposed to the local Superior Court for the District of Columbia.    

Graves’ office has this information at their fingertips and should be able to produce it quickly.

Why is it important to get this specific information?

Because the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia—Graves’ office—has the option of taking cases of a felon in possession of a firearm to federal court, where those criminals can be prosecuted under federal law (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)). In federal court, according to the United States Sentencing Commission, 97.4% of those convicted of this offense across the country receive an average prison sentence of 63 months. 

Instead of doing the right thing and taking such felon-in-possession cases to federal court, though, Graves sets policies that result in his prosecutors dropping charges, watering down charges, or plea-bargaining away gun cases for next to nothing in Superior Court, as the facts from the local report show.

We think that when Graves voluntarily provides this information (or is forced to do so), it will show that virtually all felon-in-possession cases under his watch go to the local Superior Court, not to U.S. District Court.     

Some Background

The nation’s capital once again has a massive crime problem. It is a man-made problem, driven by policy choices and political appointees and elected officials who simply aren’t up to the job of keeping residents and visitors safe. 

The D.C. Council, currently comprised of two independents and 11 Democrats, also has played a role in contributing to a culture of violence in the city. Fortunately, however, after bipartisan majorities in Congress overrode the council’s radical rewrite of the city’s criminal laws, sufficient laws are on the books to vigorously prosecute violent gun-wielding criminals and hold them accountable for their crimes.

Graves, like all top prosecutors, federal or state, is the gatekeeper to the criminal justice system. The prosecutor decides who gets prosecuted and for what crimes.

In the District of Columbia, the prosecutor also gets to decide where to prosecute the case: the local Superior Court or the federal District Court. 

After his appointment by President Joe Biden, Graves took office as the city’s top prosecutor in November 2021. Since he implemented his hands-off approach, an average of 234 homicides a year has occurred. That compares to an annual average of 149 homicides during the 17 years before Graves took office.

 A total of 274 homicides occurred in the city last year—the most in over 20 years. 

Graves’ office, which includes 330 prosecutors, has an abysmal 67% declination rate, meaning prosecutors decline to prosecute two-thirds of the cases brought to them by law enforcement officials. That’s a policy choice. 

Compare this record to the San Diego District Attorney’s Office, which also has 330 prosecutors but only a 22.6% declination rate for the past 20 years in over 500,000 cases.

The difference?  A pathetic, weak prosecutor in D.C. who doesn’t take crime seriously, doesn’t prosecute felons to the fullest extent of the law, and hires social justice warriors instead of hard-charging, fair-minded prosecutors. San Diego has a real top prosecutor who hires other prosecutors committed to keeping residents of that community safe and holds criminals accountable. 

It’s that simple.

Graves has claimed there’s nuance in his policies, but there’s not. We’ve heard enough from his public statements, and those of his deputies, to know that his “nuance” is to undercharge criminals.

No need for further explanation. The facts and statistics speak for themselves.

Felons in Possession of Firearms

Every day, law enforcement officers in the District of Columbia arrest felons who are in possession of a firearm. Every day, those cases are presented to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution.

Under Graves’ tepid leadership over the past two years, over 2,000 gun cases either were not prosecuted, dropped, or pled down to lesser charges in D.C. Superior Court, according to the D.C. Sentencing Commission’s annual report.

Graves could order his prosecutors to take all felon-in-possession cases to U.S. District Court and indict them under the law mentioned earlier, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). But he won’t.

As stated, the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s report for fiscal year 2022 found that 97.4% of offenders under this statute were sentenced to prison for an average of 63 months.

Many of those felons in possession of a firearm would qualify as armed career criminals, making them eligible for a sentencing enhancement under the Armed Career Criminal Act, or ACCA.

The average prison sentence for offenders convicted under section 922(g) and sentenced under ACCA was 186 months (or 15.5 years). 

Of course, Graves knows this, as does every line federal prosecutor in the country. 

DC Sentencing Commission Findings

If you only read the letter accompanying the D.C. Sentencing Commission’s report or the executive summary of the 71-page study, you could be excused for believing that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the nation’s capital is doing a good job at protecting the public and that more criminals are going to prison for more crimes. 

But when you read the actual report, it’s difficult to ignore how abysmally Graves has handled cases, especially gun cases. 

Highlights (or lowlights) of the report, as detailed in a thorough report by an anonymous D.C. crime blogger, include:

  • 2,262 gun cases over the past two years were not prosecuted or were dropped or pled down to lesser charges.
  • 79% of adults arrested with an illegal gun in D.C. get away without a felony conviction.
  • Felony convictions fell, with a 3% reduction in criminal charges and a 12% reduction in both cases and individuals sentenced.
  • Compared to the span of 2014 through 2018, his office secured 36% fewer felony counts.
  • Even though the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department has ramped up gun possession arrests, the U.S. Attorney’s Office secured 39% fewer felony convictions per gun possession arrest.

As the anonymous D.C. crime blogger wrote, this is the Matt Graves “filter” for gun possession cases:

  • Declined to prosecute 33% of arrests for felony gun possession.
  • Eventually dropped 37% of initially charged cases without obtaining a conviction.
  • Pled down 50% of convictions to misdemeanors instead of felonies.
  • Achieved felony convictions for only 21% of adults arrested for having an illegal gun.

As if that’s not bad enough, this same blogger points out the following:

  • In 2018, over three years before Graves took office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecuted 85% of gun cases, with  the standard charge being “Carrying a Pistol Without a License,” or CPWL.
  • In 2022, under Graves, the office prosecuted only 53% of such cases. That number went up to 68% last year, but only after Congress and the public started putting pressure on Graves to do his job.
  • In 2018, 71% of convictions for carrying an unlicensed pistol were for felony convictions.  In 2023, that fell to 40%, with 60% of convictions for the lesser misdemeanor. 

An Abject Failure

Defense lawyers in the District of Columbia call those sweetheart deals the “golden ticket.”

Here’s the worst part of those deals: Graves claims to the public that his office “earned” a conviction, but in reality, the criminal gets no jail time. 

By any reasonable measure, Graves has been an abject failure as the chief prosecutor in Washington, D.C. His lenient policies at the charging and plea-bargain stages have enabled career criminals and violent, gun-wielding gang members to roam the streets and shoot, kill, and rob with reckless abandon. 

And when we get the information on how few cases involving felons in possession of a firearm he has sent to federal District Court during his tenure, it will be even more obvious that the nation’s capital needs a real prosecutor.


Here are the questions submitted Wednesday by The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia under the Freedom of Information Act. We expect an answer in short order, since this information is readily available and easy to produce.

Our questions have been lightly edited or paraphrased here for a general readership.

  1. For the past three years, from February 2021 until April 2024, how many arrests has the Metropolitan Police Department, or any other authorized law enforcement agency, made of convicted felons for possessing an unregistered firearm or carrying a pistol without a license? Please list the number by year and month. 
  2. Of those arrested in that period for that offense, how many were charged in D.C. Superior Court and how many were charged in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia?
  3. Of those charged in the local court rather than the federal court, how many were convicted of the felony of carrying a pistol without a license, possessing an unregistered firearm, or possessing an illegal weapon? Of those who were convicted of the felony on any of those charges, what was the sentence imposed by the judge in each case?
  4. Of those listed in Question 2 who were charged in U.S. District Court, how many were charged under any subsection of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)? Of those charged under that statute, how many were convicted? What was the sentence of each person convicted?
  5. For each question, could you please provide the requested data by year and break that data down by month?