The New York Supreme Court recently confirmed the overturning conviction of the first person ever prosecuted under the SAFE Act, an anti-gun bill passed by the New York statehouse and signed into law in 2014 by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Marine veteran and defendant Benjamin Wassell faced a felonious sentence when he stood against former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman before the Fourth Department Appellate Division court in Rochester, pleading the law overreaches into the lives of citizens and strips them of their constitutional rights.
Observer Today reports: “The judicial panel unanimously ruled that the indictment against Benjamin Wassell of Silver Creek is dismissed, the judgment against him unanimously reversed and the case remitted back to Chautauqua County Court. Wassell was charged after allegedly selling an AR-15, nearly 300 rounds of ammunition and six magazines and an AR-10 semi-automatic rifle with 31 rounds of ammunition and one magazine to undercover State Police investigators shortly after the SAFE Act was passed in 2013.”
According to Wassell, the last nearly five years of legal battles have been difficult.
“If anything good comes of this, I hope people understand you can’t charge someone with a violent felony for having an inanimate object, for something that is popular all over the country [and] protected by the Constitution,” Wassell said via Spectrum News.
“Whether you agree or not. If somebody doesn’t harm someone there’s no victim, there’s no crime,” he continued. “If anybody takes anything away from this it’s the fact that good people are being harmed by these laws, that politicians are pushing through that don’t actually protect the population.”
Here’s more, from Spectrum News:
In May 2014, marine veteran and defendant Benjamin Wassell was prosecuted under the SAFE Act, and was convicted of third-degree criminal possession and third-degree criminal sale of a weapon.
Wassell’s arrest happened just days after the SAFE Act was passed. Civil Rights activist, Steve Felano, says the case was botched by disgraced Attorney General Schneiderman.
The New York Supreme Court ruled the former NYS Attorney General had no jurisdiction to handle the case and filed the following statement :
“It is well settled that the Attorney General lacks general prosecutorial authority and has the power to prosecute only where specifically permitted by statute. Although the People assert that the Attorney General had authority to prosecute this matter under section 63 (3) based on a request made by the State Police, such a request would confer that authority only if made by the head of the division, i.e., the Superintendent of State Police. Moreover,’“the State bears the burden of showing that the [division or] agency head has asked for the prosecutorial participation of the Attorney General’s office.'”
“Because the People failed to establish that the Attorney General had authority to secure the indictment and prosecute the case, we conclude that the judgment must be reversed and the indictment dismissed,” the judges continued via Observer Today. “We note that the People, for the first time through post-argument submissions, have provided this court with a letter from the superintendent to the Attorney General requesting assistance in this case. Nevertheless, the existence of that letter was not raised in the People’s brief, and thus the argument that the letter establishes the Attorney General’s authority to prosecute is not properly before us.”
In 2014, when Wassell was first convicted, he was forced to pay a fine and was sentenced to probation. An attorney in the case, James Ostrowski, claims the felony charges will be taken off of his ledger.Note: The author of this article has included commentary that expresses an opinion and analysis of the facts.