Navigating the ByzanthiumSteven Lieberman
Navigation of Byzantium…
A few weeks back, one of our clients at Artemis came to us for legal representation. Well… that is probably too strong a phrase. Maybe legal “assistance” would be a better way of saying it.
You see our client, a law abiding citizen with no connection to the criminal justice system had become a victim of the criminal justice maze of madness.
The facts are interesting:
Back in 2000, our client’s father passed away. He decided to move his mother to Las Vegas to allow her to get on with her remaining years. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, she became scared in her new environment. Her son not wanting her to be living in constant fear, gave her one of his revolvers. He told her to keep it by the side of her bed.
A year later mom was now dating. Unfortunately, mom was now dating the wrong kind of guy. Her beau decided that a new go kart trumped budding love and decided to steel the gun and use it to trade it in for a hot set of wheels. Fortunately, mom had the presence of mind to give the dead beat his walking papers then informed her son about the theft.
Well, as you can imagine the son lost his mind. He immediately called Las Vegas PD and reported the theft of the gun. He was given assurances that everything that he needed to do administratively had been done and he proceeded forward with his life.
Then 2011 came along…
Many of you may remember the case of Brian Stow, the Giant’s fan that came to LA to watch a Dodger’s game and had the unfortunate luck to be wearing a Giant’s jersey while at the game. Apparently, this displaying of colors was too much for the LA gangsters that frequent Dodger’s stadium and they decided to release their rage on Mr. Stow.
The nearly fatal beating of Mr. Stow commanded the attention of Southern California, as LAPD desperately searched for his attackers.
(If you have arrived here from our newsletter, continue reading here)
A couple of leads panned out, and two gangbangers were collard up. During a search of residence of one of the suspects a gun was found.
YEP… “THAT GUN”
A quick serial number by the LAPD gang unit turned up a registration to our client. Yes… the gun may have been recorded as stolen in Nevada (assuming that LVPD actually filed paperwork), but that information was never transmitted to California.
Thinking that our client might be somehow connected to this case, the gang unit applied for and executed a search warrant of our client’s home. Taking ALL of his guns.
Within seconds, the detective at the scene realized that there was no connection between our client and the gangbanger…. still… a process was set in motion and it had to continue. Our client was not particularly concerned about getting his guns back, after all…. he was completely innocent.
Unfortunately, the search warrant and the property receipt he was given was not fully completed by LAPD. There was no case number, and no DR number on the property receipt. (The DR number allows for a quick cross reference for later retrieval.)
After a few months, our client called LAPD to see about getting his guns back. Unfortunately, no one knew anything about it. Without cross reference numbers, no one was willing to do any digging.
A couple of years went by and our client had one of his business attorneys make an attempt at retrieving the guns. Not knowing the process of the criminal justice system, he was also unsuccessful.
Finally… seven years after they were taken from him, he asked us to see about getting them back. After some detective work, and a round of sweet talking the property dispo officer at LAPD’s Northeast division, I was able to discover that the guns were still in existence… (we were seriously concerned that after this many years, they might have been destroyed)…and being kept by the LAPD gun unit.
I called my law partner Cosmo. He happened to be in downtown, LA at the criminal courts building on another matter. He hastily drafted a motion for return of property… did some detective work on his own to get some additional information that the court would want and went to file the motion. Interestingly enough, they were willing to hear that motion the same day.
As the DA entered the court room holding Cosmo’s motion, he asked what this was about. Cosmo informed him that it was for the return of property from a search warrant.
“What type of property?”
“Well good luck having that happen!”
From that point forward, things went downhill. The DA was steadfast… he did not want guns returned to our client. He wanted more time. He wanted Cosmo to stop talking… (yes… he literally said that). Cosmo granted the DA’s request for ten days to research the matter and scheduled another hearing for last Friday.
Both Cosmo and I were there for that one.
This time the DA was more amenable.
“The people have no objections to this return of property.” The DA began,
“However, I contacted an officer at the LAPD Gun Unit and they say that we can not release the following weapons…..”
He then listed off four weapons. One of which was an AP9.. this IS a banned weapon that became banned during the time that our client was not in possession of his weapons. We kinda saw that one coming, and our client was ok with not getting that one back. He also however listed a Derringer, a Rossi revolver, and a handgun of “unknown origin”. Other handguns were on the list to be returned as well as a couple of rifles.
Why hold back an the Derringer, a revolver, and a “handgun of unknown origin?”
Well the DA himself had no idea, but he was adamant that we should just accept what was given and be grateful. We explained that we would have to call the client before we made any decisions. Our client was understandably upset. More so, since the Rossi had once belonged to his grandfather… it was a family heirloom.
We marched back into court and informed the DA that we would accept the order and get the bulk of the guns back, but we could not accept just walking away from the others. We explained (in front of the judge) that the Rossi was a family keepsake.
The Judge suggested that we calendar a hearing for late August. We agreed.
The DA was less than thrilled.
“Well ok, but I’m going to have to get someone from the Gun Unit to come here and testify.”
Ummm… ok… that is sort of how this process is supposed to work.
I told the DA that I would be more than happy to contact his person at the Gun Unit and see if I could work something out before that.
For the first time he showed legitimate interest.
“Really? Wow… that would be great! Here is his contact information. Let me know if you are able to work something out.”
Walking out of the court, I became more and more upset. I started thinking of this case not so much in the micro of simply getting back these guns, but more from a civil rights case.
This whole thing is crap!
Imagine that this was not a Second Amendment case, but rather a First Amendment case. Let’s pretend that the State had served a search warrant on our client who ran a small newspaper and had a printing press that he generated political diatribes. (I know we all now use computers, but let’s say he was old school).
The State claimed that the press that he owned had been instrumental in some sort of crime. It hadn’t, but in good faith they could reasonably believe it had.
They then find out that our client had nothing to due with the overlaying crime, and by all rights his property should be returned. Yet they don’t.
In fact, they make the process so unbelievably cumbersome and complicated that it takes him seven years just to find someone that can make any progress on getting his property back. During that time he, loses his ability to make newspapers and by extension has his ability to engage in political speech reduced.
When finally pressured to return the press, the agency that seized it claims that only about three quarters of the equipment is available to return without providing any sort of reasoning behind it.
Civil Libertarians would be up in arms! As they should be!
So that is where we are currently at on this case.
It’s kinda pissing me off (as you can see)… and I will keep your all posted on the Dangerous and Exciting Caper of the Confiscated Guns…..