For Immediate Release
Verona Man Sentenced to 30 Months for Illegal Gun Possession
MADISON, WIS. – Timothy M. O’Shea, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Lazerek Austin, 19, Verona, Wisconsin was sentenced today by Chief U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson to 30 months in prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Austin pleaded guilty to this charge on February 24, 2023.
On May 31, 2022, Austin was convicted in Dane County Circuit Court of felony car theft, and he was released pending sentencing. Austin failed to appear at sentencing on July 20, 2022, at which time a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Over the course of that summer, law enforcement was monitoring the social media activities of a local street gang in response to retaliatory violence between it and another gang. Detectives found photographs and video of Austin in possession of several different firearms that were posted after he was convicted and failed to appear in court.
On August 17, 2022, detectives located Austin at an apartment in Middleton and arrested him. Inside of the apartment they located a handgun inside of a box in the closet. Austin’s DNA was found on that handgun.
Subsequent investigation found numerous pictures of Austin holding handguns, an AR15, an AK variant, and Glocks that had a full auto switch installed on them. Austin told detectives that one photo was of him holding five handguns that belonged to others. He admitted that he posed in those photos to look tough and said that he kept a gun for protection from others who thought that he did something to wrong them. Some of the photos involved Austin openly holding handguns and AR15’s in parking lots, and many showed him with guns in cars in Madison and Chicago.
At sentencing, Judge Peterson recognized that Austin was a very young man but said that he gave the court no option but to send him to prison because he was a danger to the community. Judge Peterson considered the nature of the photos that Austin posted as showing he was part of a group where he and his friends were reinforcing each other’s bad behavior, and that trajectory was that someone was going to get shot. In weighing the options of protecting the public versus rehabilitation, Judge Peterson said that the court had to stand up for the protection of the community. Austin was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release.
The charge against Austin was the result of an investigation conducted by the Fitchburg, Madison, and Middleton Police Departments, the Dane County Sheriff’s Office Tactical Response Team, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The prosecution of the case has been handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Corey Stephan.
This case has been brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), the U.S. Justice Department’s program to reduce violent crime. The PSN approach emphasizes coordination between state and federal prosecutors and all levels of law enforcement to address gun crime, especially felons illegally possessing firearms and ammunition and violent and drug crimes that involve the use of firearms.