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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
Thursday, January 26, 2023

St. Joseph Man Sentenced to 15 Years for Illegal Firearm

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A St. Joseph, Mo., man was sentenced in federal court today for illegally possessing a firearm.

Earl B. Penn, 31, was sentenced by U.S. Chief District Judge Beth Phillips to 15 years in federal prison without parole. Penn was sentenced as an armed career criminal due to his prior felony convictions.

On Aug. 31, 2022, Penn was found guilty at trial 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 provided a false name and attempted to flee before he struggled with the officers 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. Testimony at trial indicated during nearly the entire struggle with law enforcement, Penn’s right hand was under his body where his handgun was stored.

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, conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine and cocaine, and unlawfully carrying a loaded handgun.

This case was 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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