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Press Release

Felon Sentenced to Over Four Years in Prison for Unlawfully Possessing a Gun and Leading Police on a Car Chase

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Iowa
Received Enhanced Sentence Because He Assaulted Another Inmate in Jail While Awaiting Sentencing

A convicted felon who unlawfully possessed a gun and led the police on a car chase was sentenced today to more than four years in federal prison.

Dennis Lawson, age 23, from Sioux City, Iowa, received the prison term after a December 23, 2020 guilty plea to one count of being felon in possession of a firearm.

Evidence at the plea and sentencing hearings showed that, on February 23, 2020, Lawson was the driver of a car parked in a parking lot in Cedar Rapids.  A woman was in the car with him.  Both were seen using a needle to ingest drugs.  Officers approached Lawson’s car and he took off out of the parking lot.  Officers chased Lawson, who eventually crashed his car into two trees.  During the chase, Lawson forced his passenger to throw a gun out the window, which officers immediately recovered.  After the crash, Lawson tried to run, but slipped and fell.

Lawson has multiple prior felony convictions, including a conviction for burglary and two prior convictions in state court for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Additional evidence showed that, on May 16, 2021, Lawson was incarcerated in the Bremer County jail while awaiting sentencing.  On that day, Lawson used a sock with a bar of soap in it to assault another inmate.  Lawson also insulted and shoved a jail employee who was attempting to stop the assault.  As a result of this conduct, Lawson lost credit for accepting responsibility and received an increased sentence.

Lawson was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Judge C.J. Williams.  Lawson was sentenced to 51 months’ imprisonment.  He must also serve a three-year term of supervised release after the prison term.  There is no parole in the federal system.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN).  PSN 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.

Lawson is being held in the United States Marshal’s custody until he can be transported to a federal prison.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Anthony Morfitt and investigated by the Cedar Rapids Police Department and the Cedar Rapids Safe Streets Task Force.  The task force is composed of representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Marion Police Department, and the Cedar Rapids Police Department.  

Court file information at

The case file number is 20-CR-63.

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Updated July 15, 2021

Project Safe Neighborhoods
Firearms Offenses