News and Press Releases

Felon Pleads Guilty to Possessing Sawed-Off Shotgun Used to Shoot Victim in Face

June 07, 2012

ROME, GA – Joseph Henry Penson, 38, of Cedartown, pleaded guilty today in federal district court to being a felon in possession of a sawed-off shotgun that he used to shoot a man in the face and neck. 

United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “While it is a federal crime for anyone previously convicted of a felony to possess a firearm, it is especially important that individuals who commit violent crimes, or who have violent histories be aggressively prosecuted when they violate gun laws.”

Scott D. Sweetow, Special Agent in Charge, of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Atlanta Field Office, stated:  “Violence limits people’s choices, threatens their physical integrity, and disrupts their daily lives.” Sweetow further stated, “ATF’s mission to combat violent crime is in concert with creating an environment in which people can develop their full potential and lead productive and creative lives in accord with their needs and interests-violence of this nature will never be tolerated and will always gain ATF’s full attention.”

According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court:  In the early morning hours of May 15, 2011, Penson and the victim got into an argument because Penson’s car was blocking a driveway that the victim wanted to use.  Immediately after the verbal altercation, Penson left the area, but returned shortly with a sawed-off shotgun and shot the victim in the face and neck.  After shooting the victim, who survived, Penson ran off with the gun. 

Witnesses told police the direction in which Penson had run, and the police were able to find Penson a few blocks away.  Penson’s 12- gauge Mossberg sawed-off shotgun was found nearby.

Because Penson had previously been convicted of a felony, he was prohibited by federal law from possessing a firearm.  According to the indictment, Penson’s previous felony convictions included aggravated assault, drug offenses, and making a false representation on a fingerprint card.

Penson pleaded guilty to one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.  As part of the plea agreement, Penson agreed that the district court should sentence him to ten years in prison, the maximum amount of time allowed by statute.  The court could also fine him up to $250,000.  In determining the actual sentence, the Court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders. 

Penson was indicted in September 2011.

The sentencing has been scheduled for August 30, 2012, at 11:30 a.m. before Judge Robert L. Vining, Jr.

This case is being investigated by the Special Agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Assistant United States Attorney Kim S. Dammers is prosecuting the case.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney's Public Information Office at or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia is




Return to Top

United States Attorneys 225th Anniversary
USAO Homepage
Stay Connected
Facebook Twitter
USAO Briefing Room
Victim Witness Assistance

Learn about victim notification and rights, witness information, and helpful resources.

Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee

Training and seminars for Federal, State, and Local Law Enforcement Agencies.

Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription Drug Abuse