MADISON, WIS. – Timothy M. O’Shea, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Martin Curlee, 39, La Crosse, Wisconsin, was sentenced today by Chief U.S. District Judge James Peterson to 51 months in federal prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Curlee pleaded guilty to this charge on January 7, 2021.
On October 8, 2020, La Crosse police were called to respond to Curlee walking around with a loaded 9mm pistol in his hand. When contacted by officers, he threw the gun on the ground. Curlee admitted to being a felon and knew that he should not have the gun, but claimed it was for protection. Officers noted that Curlee appeared paranoid and thought that he was going to get shot in the jail.
At sentencing, Judge Peterson said that Curlee had a substantial criminal history and noted that his mental health issues were exacerbated by drug abuse. Judge Peterson found that Curlee posed a danger because he chose to arm himself against imagined threats, therefore protection of the community was the number one goal in the sentence. Because of that, Judge Peterson determined that a longer period of incarceration was appropriate and also imposed the maximum 3-year term of supervised release.
The charge against Curlee was the result of an investigation conducted by the La Crosse Police Department 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.