La Crosse man sentenced to 51 months in federal prison for possessing gun as a felon

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MADISON, Wis. (WKBT) — A 39-year-old La Crosse man was sentenced Tuesday to 51 months in federal prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Martin Curlee pleaded guilty to the charge on Jan. 7 in connection with an Oct. 8 incident, according to court records for the Western District of Wisconsin, where Curlee was sentenced.
La Crosse police were called to respond to a report that Curlee was walking around with a loaded 9mm pistol in his hand. When officers contacted him, 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, according to the criminal complaint. Officers noted that Curlee appeared paranoid and thought he was going to get shot in the jail.
At sentencing, Chief U.S. District Judge James Peterson said Curlee had a substantial criminal history and noted that drug abuse exacerbated his mental health issues.
Peterson, who found that Curlee posed a danger because he chose to arm himself against imagined threats, said protecting the community was the No. 1 goal in the sentencing him to a longer period of incarceration was appropriate. He also imposed the maximum three-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.
This case was prosecuted as brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, the U.S. Justice Department’s program to reduce violent crime. The program emphasizes coordination among 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.