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Press Release

Seattle man sentenced to four years in prison for dealing fentanyl in downtown Seattle while armed with a handgun

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington
Defendant arrested twice in a month at 12th & Jackson and 3rd & Pike

Seattle – A 37-year-old Seattle man was sentenced this week to four years in federal prison and three years of supervised release for Possession of Controlled Substances with Intent to Distribute, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown.  Joseph Johnson was prosecuted federally as part of Seattle’s Operation New Day – a concerted effort by Seattle Police and federal partners to remove open air drug markets in key hotspots in the city of Seattle.

“We are committed to prosecuting appropriate federal cases from the efforts to stop drug trafficking on Third Avenue and in the International District,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. “In this case, Mr. Johnson did not learn from his first arrest in the International District and was arrested a second time, less than a month later, selling fentanyl at 3rd and Pike. In both instances he was armed with semi-automatic pistols. Such a case is appropriate for federal sanctions.”

Johnson was arrested on February 4, 2022, near 12th and Jackson in the International District, when an undercover law enforcement officer approached him and purchased fentanyl pills. At the time of the arrest Johnson had additional pills, $165 cash, and a semi-automatic 9 mm pistol. Johnson was released from custody. Before charges were filed on that arrest, Johnson was contacted again by law enforcement – this time at 3rd and Pike. On March 2, 2022, law enforcement officers saw Johnson engage in hand-to-hand sales of fentanyl pills. Johnson had 184 fentanyl pills in his pocket as well as nearly $1,100 in cash drug proceeds. He also had a loaded Polymer80 semi-automatic pistol.

In imposing the four-year prison sentence and the three years of supervised release to follow, Judge John C. Coughenour said “the involvement of the firearms and the significant amount of fentanyl is very troubling for the court.”

Assistant United States Attorney Cecelia Gregson noted the case was slated for federal prosecution, because of Johnson’s quick return to dealing after the first arrest. “The rapid rate of recidivism the defendant demonstrated by engaging in the very same conduct weeks later leaves little question about the threat he poses to community safety. Fentanyl is highly addictive and incredibly lethal. Packing firearms while dealing fentanyl adds another layer of dangerousness and increases the risk of violence occurring when addicted consumers and unruly rivals are factored into the mix,” AUSA Gregson wrote in her sentencing memo.

The case was investigated by the Seattle Police Department with assistance from the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Cecelia Gregson.


Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Communications Director Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or

Updated May 5, 2023

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