La Crosse man gets probation as felon with firearm

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

MADISON - A federal judge gave supervised release rather than prison Tuesday to a La Crosse man who admitted being a felon in possession of a firearm, despite his 1994 sexual assault conviction.

District Judge Barbara Crabb could have sentenced Xiong Yang, 50, to a year in prison after he was cited in 2008 while hunting at Fort McCoy. But Crabb noted Yang's stature in the Hmong community, his work history, his guilty plea and failure to understand prohibitions against his possessing firearms.

Yang became head of his household at age 9 when his father went missing in action during a Laotian civil war, according to his attorney, Kelly Welsh. The CIA recruited Yang at age 12 to fight the Pathet Lao and their North Vietnamese allies. When the U.S. military withdrew from Vietnam, Yang fled with others to Thailand and then immigrated to La Crosse in 1980.

Yang was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1994 for first-degree sexual assault of an 8-year-old. Crabb said Yang also had relations with two 17-year-old girls before going to prison.

But since his 2004 release, Yang has worked "endless hours" with the Hmong Mutual Assistance Association and for the past two years acted as chief of the Yang clan, performing marriage negotiations and ceremonies, Welsh wrote.

Yang works third shift at ATK-Alliant Techsystems and has been a dedicated father to his two children.

He and his wife in 2008 were in their car with .22 rifles unloaded and cased, waiting for the sunrise to squirrel hunt at Fort McCoy, when a military police officer asked to see their permits. He had proper state and Fort McCoy permits, Welsh said, but Yang didn't realize he no longer could have a firearm after being convicted of a felony.

Crabb agreed with Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Altman that Yang's sexual assault conviction represents a "serious offense" but didn't qualify under federal guidelines as a "crime of violence," allowing Crabb to consider probation.


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