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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Georgia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, November 19, 2021

Savannah man gets 10-year sentence for illegal firearms possession

Prior felony convictions prohibited gun possession

SAVANNAH, GA:  A Chatham County man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for illegally possessing a firearm and ammunition.

Matthew Kearse, 30, of Savannah, was sentenced to 120 months in federal prison after his conviction for Possession of a Firearm and Ammunition by a Convicted Felon, said David H. Estes, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. A U.S. District Court jury took just 15 minutes to find Kearse guilty on the charge after a trial in August, and Judge William T. Moore Jr. also ordered Kearse to serve three years of supervised release after completion of his prison term.

There is no parole in the federal system.

“Matthew Kearse knew, as a previously convicted felon, that he was prohibited from carrying a gun, but he did so anyway,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Estes. “He had been out of prison for barely four months when he was caught with a pistol, and squandered his brief time of freedom.”

Kearse was on parole after a previous prison sentence when his aunt confronted him in November 2018 about a pistol she found in her back yard. Her surveillance system captured Kearse in the area where the gun was found.

Investigators from the Savannah Police Department, with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), took custody of the pistol. DNA testing demonstrated definitively that Kearse had possessed the weapon.

“Mr. Kearse’s story is one that is all too common” said ATF Assistant Special Agent in Charge Beau Kolodka.  “Convicted felons have no business possessing firearms and Mr. Kearse’s acquisition of a firearm within four months of his release from prison has resulted in his return to prison for a long time.”

In the past three years, more than 700 defendants have been federally charged in the Southern District of Georgia for illegal firearms offenses – most often for possessing a firearm after conviction on a previous felony.

Under federal law, it is illegal for an individual to possess a firearm if he or she falls into one of nine prohibited categories including being a felon; illegal alien; or unlawful user of a controlled substance. Further, it is unlawful to possess a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense or violent crime. It is also illegal to purchase – or even to attempt to purchase – firearms if the buyer is a prohibited person or illegally purchasing a firearm on behalf of others. Lying on ATF Form 4473, which is used to lawfully purchase a firearm, also is a federal offense. 

For more information on the lawful purchasing of firearms, please see: https://www.atf.gov/qa-category/atf-form-4473.

The case was investigated by the ATF and the Savannah Police Department, and prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joshua S. Bearden and Marcela C. Mateo.

Topic(s): 
Firearms Offenses
Violent Crime
Contact: 
Barry L. Paschal, Public Affairs Officer: 912-652-4422
Press Release Number: 
183-21
Updated November 19, 2021