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Press Release

Waterloo Man Sentenced to Nine Years in Federal Prison for Unlawfully Possessing Gun

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

A man who broke into a semi-truck and stole the driver’s firearm was sentenced yesterday to nine years in federal prison.


Willie Johnson, age 46, from Waterloo, Iowa, received the prison term after a June 29, 2017, guilty plea to being a felon in possession of a firearm.


In a plea agreement, Johnson admitted he knowingly possessed the firearm, despite being a felon with previous convictions including assault by display of a weapon, carrying weapons, and possession of crack cocaine with intent to deliver.  Evidence at sentencing showed that Johnson obtained the firearm after breaking the windows of a semi-truck during a domestic dispute, and stealing the driver’s firearm when she fled to get help.  Johnson was apprehended later that day with the firearm in his possession.  Evidence also showed that Johnson, a former Mixed Martial Arts fighter, threatened the driver and her family members on multiple occasions in an attempt to dissuade her from testifying about his theft of the firearm.   


Johnson was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by Chief United States District Court Judge Leonard T. Strand.  Johnson was sentenced to 108 months’ imprisonment.  A special assessment of $100 was imposed, and 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), a program that has been historically successful in bringing together all levels of law enforcement to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.  Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made turning the tide of rising violent crime in America a top priority.   In October 2017, as part of a series of actions to address this crime trend, Attorney General Sessions announced the reinvigoration of PSN and directed all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to develop a district crime reduction strategy that incorporates the lessons learned since PSN launched in 2001.


“Fighting violent crime is one of the highest priorities of this office and the Department of Justice,” said United States Attorney Peter E. Deegan, Jr.  “Through Project Safe Neighborhoods, we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to send armed offenders to prison and make our communities safer.”


Johnson 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 Attorneys Ravi T. Narayan and Lyndie M. Freeman and was investigated by a Federal Task Force composed of the Waterloo Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms assisted by the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office and Cedar Falls Police Department. 


Court file information at

The case file number is 17-CR-2019.


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Updated January 19, 2018

Project Safe Neighborhoods