A convicted felon shot by Chicago Police on New Year’s Day after shooting a gun into the air was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison Tuesday in a gun-running case prosecutors said they hoped would send a message to those involved with the city’s illegal gun trade.
Charles Lemle, 28, of the 500 block E. 67th, stood on crutches before U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Guzman before he got the maximum sentence, apologizing for his actions and acknowledging he had made mistakes: “I can’t keep making mistakes. It’s only going to lead me right here.”
While serving 18 months of home confinement awaiting sentencing for illegally possessing firearms as a convict, Lemle stepped outside of his home Jan. 1 while drunk and fired a gun into the air, according to Chicago Police. When police responded, he allegedly pointed a gun at officers and was shot, police said.
Lemle was charged last year, along with three other men in a gun running scheme involving 43 illegal guns which were obtained by undercover agents in a single April 2012 weekend.
Lemle was caught on tape getting into the back seat of a vehicle and one by one showing an undercover agent nine illegal guns. He was not charged with transferring or selling the guns, merely for being in possession of guns while being a convicted felon.
Prior to sentencing, federal prosecutor Bethany Biesenthal argued Lemle’s New Year’s Day arrest showed “brazen behavior that shows a complete lack of respect for the law.”
“It’s a slap in the face to the judicial system for him to walk out and do the exact same thing in the community where he promised the court he wouldn’t engage in any further criminal conduct,” Biesenthal said.
She argued a maximum sentence of 120 months, or 10 years, would send a message to the community about those involved in illegal gun-running: “What is a factor is sending a message to the community and general deterrence and looking at this crime as something that absolutely wreaks havoc among the community, and makes people who live in the community fearful to walk down the streets, makes them fearful to send their kids to school. And so the message absolutely needs to be sent to the community that it won’t be tolerated and it will be punished at the highest possible sentence with 120 months.”
Defense attorney Linda Perry, however, argued Lemle shouldn’t be the fall guy for the city’s gun problem.
“What I don’t want, however, is that he become a poster child for a citywide problem, and that we punish a citywide problem with this one individual,” Perry said. “I certainly want to look at Mr. Lemle and his actions as an individual and not label a whole problem with the city, certainly, solely upon him.”
Judge Guzman stressed Lemle’s extensive criminal history – 17 convictions including his first arrest at age 14 for robbery, and at 15 for selling heroin — as a reason for a lengthy sentence, as well as his actions on New Year’s Day.
“He had to get that gun. It had to be in his possession. It had to be in his home. It had to be in his hands. It didn’t just fall out of the sky. These were all conscious decisions he made to violate the law again in the same way, while he’s awaiting punishment,” Guzman said.
Guzman said it’s incorrect to blame Lemle for “the totality of violence” on Chicago streets, but said violence is committed by many people like Lemle.
“Of the things that the court is not only entitled to do, but is responsible for doing is protecting the public from that kind of violence,” Guzman said. “And the public most certainly needs protection from this defendant.”