Former Pittsburgh man sentenced to life in prison for drug, gun crimes

PITTSBURGH — A man with a serious criminal history has been sentenced to life in prison with an additional 20 years of incarceration after being convicted of violating federal drug and firearm laws.

According to a news release, the judge who gave the sentence recommended that 44-year-old James Byrd, formerly of Pittsburgh, be kept in a maximum-security prison as far away from western Pennsylvania as possible.

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Byrd recently posted more than a dozen videos to YouTube from jail, including one calling out his alleged victim and sharing her name and address.

Information presented to the court said Byrd possessed with the intent to distribute quantities of mixtures and substances with detectible amounts of cocaine, cocaine base, heroin and marijuana.

Byrd also possessed a firearm and ammunition as a convicted felon and carried the firearm during a drug trafficking crime.

During the sentencing, the government outlined Byrd’s serious criminal history and misconduct. In 1998, he was involved in a shootout at a bar in Duquesne where he shot three people.

He was paroled in May 1, 2002, but was arrested on May 22, 2002, charged with escape and other offenses.

Byrd then went to Ohio, where he was involved in a violent kidnapping and robbery of a drug dealer. He was released from that sentence on Oct. 24, 2014.

According to a person close to Byrd, he committed more crimes after his release in 2014 and his incarceration in 2015. These crimes included multiple violent rapes, assaults, kidnapping a child, drug dealing and illegal drug possession. A news release said his typical targets were vulnerable women.

While in jail after his 2015 arrest, Byrd continued criminal conduct. He threatened to kill one of his victims and her family, threatened counsel for the government, lied under oath and failed to comply with court orders.

During a phone call in prison, Byrd said, “I will definitely come home and murder you,” and made other similar statements despite knowing he was being recorded.

The sentencing also addressed more than 70 prison misconduct reports that Byrd accumulated at the Allegheny County Jail.

The reports ranged from having access to weapons and cell phones to threats of violence against staff, exposing himself to female staff, faking medical emergencies, throwing feces and other misconduct.

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