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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Western District of Missouri
Teresa A. Moore, United States Attorney
For Immediate Release
Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Jury Convicts St. Joseph Man of Illegal Firearm

Faces at Least 15 Years in Prison

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A St. Joseph man was convicted by a federal trial jury today of illegally possessing a firearm.

Earl B. Penn, 30, was found guilty of one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Evidence introduced during the trial indicated that Penn was in possession of a Taurus 9mm semi-automatic pistol on June 22, 2020.

A St. Joseph Police Department detective and a patrol officer contacted Penn, who had an outstanding warrant for violations of his federal supervised release, on June 22, 2020. Penn struggled and resisted being arrested. Penn struck the officer in the face with the back of his head multiple times and managed to pull the OC spray from the officer’s vest. The detective had to physically remove the OC spray from Penn’s hand in order to prevent him from discharging it.

After Penn was restrained, the detective saw the loaded handgun in Penn’s sweatshirt pouch.

Following the presentation of evidence, the jury in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo., deliberated for 45 minutes before returning the guilty verdict to U.S. Chief District Judge Beth Phillips, ending a trial that began Monday, Aug. 29.

Under federal law, it is illegal for anyone who has been convicted of a felony to be in possession of any firearm or ammunition. Penn has prior felony convictions for residential burglary, arson, and conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine and cocaine. Those convictions for two violent felonies and a serious drug offense subject Penn to be sentenced as an armed career criminal.

Under federal statutes, Penn is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison without parole, up to a sentence of life in federal prison without parole. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon E. Gibson, who is a cross-designated prosecutor from the Missouri Attorney General’s office as part of the Safer Streets Initiative to combat violent crime, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph M. Marquez. It was investigated by the St. Joseph, Mo., Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Project Safe Neighborhoods

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.

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