Almost four years after a federal jury convicted him for illegally possessing a firearm, a career criminal from West Philadelphia finally learned his punishment yesterday.

U.S. District Judge Jan DuBois sentenced the man, Jake Kelly, to 15 years behind bars, the mandatory minimum under federal law. Advisory sentencing guidelines had called for a sentence of close to 20 years.

But defense attorney Mark Cedrone argued that 15 years was more than sufficient punishment, adding that Kelly, 41, "may very well be innocent" of the crime.

Kelly addressed the court before sentencing, prompting DuBois to note that he was "of the view that the evidence against him was weak."

DuBois rejected a defense plea to allow Kelly, who had been free on bail, to self-surrender in 45 days and ordered him taken into custody immediately.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Tsao said that Kelly had "not accepted responsibility" for his actions, and that his criminal history was "simply, simply extraordinary."

He noted that Kelly had three prior state felony drug convictions.

Cedrone appealed Kelly's conviction in 2005. (He convinced DuBois that a new trial was warranted, but couldn't prevail at the appellate level.)

Kelly was arrested by Philadelphia police in May 2004 after police went to a neighborhood bar, Cafe Breezes, on Columbia Avenue near 52nd Street, to investigate possible illegal activity there, court papers said. (The feds later adopted the case and charged Kelly with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in September 2004.)

An arresting officer testified at Kelly's trial that a gun with an obliterated serial number fell from Kelly's lap as she was observing him.

After his conviction in July 2005, Kelly asked for a new trial, in part, because new evidence - which the defense contended was discovered after the trial - would likely result in his acquittal.

At a subsequent court hearing in June 2006, Victor Jones, who was in Cafe Breezes at the time of Kelly's arrest, testified that Kelly "was wrongly arrested" and that someone had thrown the gun at Kelly. Jones said that he didn't say anything at the time of the incident because he didn't want to get involved in the case, court papers said.

DuBois ruled in August 2006 that a new trial was warranted based on Jones' testimony. The feds quickly appealed DuBois' decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Two years later, in August 2008, the Third Circuit reversed DuBois' order for a new trial and remanded the case back to DuBois for sentencing.

Cedrone said yesterday in court that neither he nor Kelly had decided what the appropriate avenue for appeal was. *