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Press Release

Judge sentences Great Falls man to four years in prison for firearms crime

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Montana

GREAT FALLS—A federal judge today sentenced a Great Falls man, who said his job was to collect drug debts, to 48 months in prison for illegally possessing a firearm, U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said.

Justin Carlton Whitman, 37, pleaded guilty in December to being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm.

U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided. Judge Morris also ordered the forfeiture of a 9mm semi-automatic pistol that was seized in the case.

Prosecutors said evidence showed that because of a 2013 conviction, Whitman was prohibited from possessing firearms. Whitman was charged with the firearms crime after a 911 call on Feb. 4, 2017 by a Great Falls man who said his grandson came to his home and told him there were people in a SUV parked in the driveway. The people had a gun and were demanding money. The grandson also said Whitman was in the car and had a pistol in his waistband as well as a machete.

Great Falls police officers responded and found the SUV still in the driveway. Officers identified Whitman as the driver and there was a female was in the front passenger seat. The officer had both of them get out of vehicle. Once out, the officer saw a black machete tucked between the front driver’s seat and the center console. Police obtained consent to search the vehicle and seized the machete as well as a 9mm semi-automatic pistol from the center console.

Whitman went to the police station for an interview and told officers about the incident that led to the 911 call. He acknowledged that his job was to collect drug debts in Great Falls and was supposed to collect money that evening. Whitman also admitted he possessed the pistol found in the center console but that it originally belonged to someone else.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Betley prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Great Falls Police Department.

The case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), which is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts.  PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.




Clair Johnson Howard
Public Information Officer

Updated March 19, 2019

Project Safe Neighborhoods