News and Press Releases


July 15, 2005

JOHN MARK CHANVONGSA, 19, of Burien, Washington was sentenced to the mandatory minimum term of seven years in prison today for Brandishing a Firearm During and in Relation to a Drug Trafficking Offense. On October 2, 2004, CHANVONGSA and another man were arrested near the parking lot of an Albertson's grocery store in Federal Way. In the busy store parking lot, CHANVONGSA had fired shots at another man who attempted to steal a quarter pound of marijuana from him. The man was hit in the leg and has since recovered. In sentencing CHANVONGSA in Seattle today, U.S. District Judge Thomas S. Zilly noted that CHANVONGSA has a criminal history "involving firearms, stolen firearms. The defendant has to understand he cannot have a gun."

CHANVONGSA was originally charged with Second Degree Assault in state court and was facing four years in prison. After considering his history with firearms as a juvenile, CHANVONGSA was identified for federal prosecution as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a federal initiative aimed at reducing gun violence. In Western Washington, federal dollars pay for additional prosecutors in Pierce, Kitsap, King and Cowlitz counties to identify those cases that are appropriate for federal prosecution. Not only does federal prosecution often result in longer prison terms, a federal sentence often removes felons from their home area so they are no longer able to interact with familiar criminal cohorts. In Richmond, Virginia, during a pilot program of Project Safe Neighborhoods, the number of gun homicides dropped by nearly 50% between 1997 and 2000.

In addition to the 7 year prison sentence, CHANVONGSA was sentenced to 5 years of supervised release following his prison term. In imposing the sentence Judge Zilly added that the case was appropriate for federal court with the resources available for post-prison supervision.

The case was investigated by the Federal Way Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF). The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney C. Andrew Colasurdo. For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington, at (206) 553-4110.

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