Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cato Institute holds forum on New Jersey's gratuitous weapons prosecution of Brian Aitken

Today, the Cato Institute held a book forum for author Brian D. Aitken, for “The Blue Tent Sky: How the Left’s War on Guns Cost Me My Son and My Freedom”, Beard Face Books, 2014.  I purchased a copy of the book and will review it later. The event was held in the renovated lower level space, which has electrical outlets and writing space. 

Walter Olson and Tim Lynch from Cato also spoke at the event.
Reason has an article by Radley Balko summarizing the case, here
The article explains how it is nearly impossible to transport a gun legally, for an ordinary person, in New Jersey, unless you fall under one of the “exceptions”.  The judge refused to allow instruction to the jury about the “exceptions”, despite the fact that the jury has asked three times.   I recall that in 1982, I was foreman of a jury in Dallas on a weapons case, and we did convict the person, although we had several questions of the judge and almost hung.  But I don’t recall any evasion by prosecution and judge like this.
Eventually, Gov. Christie commuted the sentence to time served (after two months), and appeals courts overturned all but one of the convictions.  Yet that conviction, regarding transport of a particular kind of ammunition, still makes him a convicted felon, unable to rent an apartment.

The only explanation for the behavior of police, judge and prosecutors seems to be political pressure, and the belief they will be blamed if a major rampage (like Va Tech) happens in New Jersey, although this case was prosecuted well before Newtown, on an incident that started in early 2009, just before Obama’s inauguration.  In the very beginning of the episode, police were extremely concerned that he could be “mentally ill”.
Aitken’s move from Colorado had been motivated by a desire to see his son, after a difficult divorce.
DailyCaller has a story about Aitken’s litigation against New Jersey, here
The event was followed by lunch, with Washington snow flurries outside. 

Below I captured some of Walter Olson's remarks.  

Richard Emory has an op-ed "Who's Policing the Prosecutors" in the New York Times, on civil asset forfeiture, here. 

The book seems ironic now, given all the recent attention to police profiling by race.

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