News and Press Releases

James W. Watson Sentenced in U.S. District Cour

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Billings, on September 1, 2010, before Senior U.S. District Judge Jack D. Shanstrom, JAMES W. WATSON, age 32, appeared for sentencing. WATSON was sentenced to a term of:

  • Prison: 46 months, consecutive to another sentence
  • Special Assessment: $100
  • Supervised Release: 3 years

WATSON was sentenced in connection with his guilty plea to being a felon-in-possession of a firearm.

In an Offer of Proof filed by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Ed Zink, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:

WATSON is a convicted felon, presently under the supervision of the Montana Department of Corrections stemming from a 2009 sentence. WATSON is prohibited from possessing firearms.

On August 20, 2009, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives became involved in an investigation after learning that WATSON may be in possession of a firearm. WATSON lived in a camper on a car lot, causing a Billings Code Enforcement Officer to take notice.

During the week of August 17, the code officer observed WATSON outside the camper, wearing only shorts with a handgun tucked in the waistband. She notified police, who contacted an Bureau of ATF officer. The officer learned WATSON was on conditional release, which is treated as inmate status by the Department of Corrections. WATSON's supervising officers decided to attempt contact with WATSON based on the information, and they asked the ATF officer to accompany them. They all arrived at the camper on August 21, 2009. WATSON was not present and the supervising officers decided to search the camper for the gun. Inside, a loaded Springfield Armory V-10 semi-automatic .45 ACP pistol was seized.

Because there is no parole in the federal system, the "truth in sentencing" guidelines mandate that WATSON will likely serve all of the time imposed by the court. In the federal system, WATSON does have the opportunity to earn a sentence reduction for "good behavior." However, this reduction will not exceed 15% of the overall sentence.

The investigation was a cooperative effort between the Billings Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Montana Probation and Parole.

This conviction is yet another important outcome from Project Safe Neighborhoods, a national priority of the United States Department of Justice. PSN is designed as a partnership between federal and local law enforcement to reduce violent crime and gun-related crime through the vigorous enforcement of the criminal provisions of the federal firearms laws. In Montana, the effort under PSN is called "Catch and No Release."



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