Teacher accidentally carries rifle onto school property.


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jsalcedo
November 19, 2005, 09:32 AM
Charge against teacher dismissed

By Karla Browne, November 15, 2005

A district judge interrupted the prosecutor’s closing statements Monday to dismiss charges against a Perry County teacher who carried a rifle onto the grounds of New Bloomfield Elementary School.



“I’m sitting here listening to this and all you have is intent. He didn’t realize he had a gun on school property. The district attorney will probably refile, but I discharge the case,” District Judge Donald “Pete” Howell told Assistant District Attorney Sean Potter in Newport.

The West Perry Middle School science teacher, James Woods, 54, of New Bloomfield said, “I’m pleased” after the decision. “I made a little mistake. Hopefully, it will work out OK.”

“There are ample grounds for the case to be refiled,” Potter said after the hearing.

A decision is expected by Friday on any further prosecution, he added.

Saw destructive kids

Woods said on the stand that he was carrying his hunting rifle home from where a neighbor was working on it Sept. 12 when he saw some teenage boys tackling and stomping on a bush during a pickup football game on the school grounds.




As a borough councilman who had just heard complaints about vandalism at a recent meeting, Woods said he “felt an obligation” to talk to the boys about their actions.

“I didn’t think about the gun,” Woods said. He stepped across the street from the neighbor’s house to the playground, then realized he had the gun on his shoulder. He set it down next to a chain link fence before approaching the boys, who were about 40 years away, he said.

“I didn’t want to scare the kids. I didn’t want them to see the gun. That was not my intention,” Woods said.

One of the half-dozen football players testified he was “scared because ... I didn’t know if it was loaded, not loaded, anything” when he saw the rifle propped “up against the fence” while Woods was lecturing him.

But other boys and a school custodian who had been sequestered during that testimony said they never saw the weapon until Woods was leaving.

Laid flat on ground

Woods said he had “laid it flat on the ground. It had an $800 scope. I would never prop it against a chain-link fence.”

State police at Newport had charged Woods with possession of a weapon on school property, a first degree misdemeanor punishable by forfeiture of all firearms for life and up to five years in prison, said his attorney, Terrence McGowan of Harrisburg.

West Perry School District, where Woods has been “a loyal employee” for 30 years, placed him on administrative leave for two five-day periods, Superintendent David Hoover said on the stand.

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jsalcedo
November 19, 2005, 09:33 AM
State police at Newport had charged Woods with possession of a weapon on school property, a first degree misdemeanor punishable by forfeiture of all firearms for life and up to five years in prison, said his attorney, Terrence McGowan of Harrisburg.



5 years for a misdemeanor? I call BS on this one

Tropical Z
November 19, 2005, 09:35 AM
Prosecutors suck.:banghead:

Pilgrim
November 19, 2005, 11:30 AM
Prosecutors reflect the politically correct stupidity that voted them into office. Undoubtedly there were very few voters in this jurisdiction that were outraged enough to scare the prosecutor to reconsider his decision to file charges.

Pilgrim

Justin
November 19, 2005, 11:56 AM
“There are ample grounds for the case to be refiled,” Potter said after the hearing.

This is the voice of a petty, spiteful little man.

ExtremeDooty
November 19, 2005, 12:24 PM
A district judge interrupted the prosecutor’s closing statements Monday to dismiss charges against a Perry County teacher who carried a rifle onto the grounds of New Bloomfield Elementary School.


You gotta like the Judge in this case. He couldn't even wait for the PA to finish his closing argument to discharge the case. He understands the difference between the spirit and the letter of the law.

Potter, on the other hand, is a waste of space.

TallPine
November 19, 2005, 12:51 PM
This is the voice of a petty, spiteful little man.
Probably the same kind of DA that would prosecute Santa Claus :p

:D (guess what video we watched last nite?)

marshall3
November 19, 2005, 01:00 PM
I pastor a church where we have a Christian school. Last year we had Civil War actors come and talk. They brought several long guns and pistols, and the kids got to hold them too. The boys had a great time pretending to be Civil War soldiers. Wish we had more common sense at some of these public schools.

Spot77
November 19, 2005, 03:01 PM
who were about 40 years away, he said.

WOW! That's pretty far!

Dave P
November 19, 2005, 05:01 PM
"One of the half-dozen football players testified he was “scared because ... I didn’t know if it was loaded, not loaded, anything”"


Future Democratic voter??

Dave P
November 19, 2005, 05:08 PM
zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

GILROY
November 19, 2005, 05:22 PM
My daughters attend a private Christian High School. The History teacher (female) actually asked me to bring my collection of WWII mousers, pistols and bayos and talk to the kids about the history of each weapon. Really gave a bit of touch and feel to the history lesson. Sadly "zero tolerance" in our public schools are intolerant of common sense also.

22-rimfire
November 19, 2005, 05:45 PM
I could see this kind of thing happening often with teachers. Teachers work at a school and it is their life. We all work and drop stuff off to be worked on or whatever... if it was a gun and you picked it up, and had it in your car on school grounds.... What about hunting, teacher wants to take in a few hours of daylight hunting after school to hunt and has his gun in his car...... He has broken the rules and could be terminated on a technicality. This just does not seem right in terms of the spirt of the law. The judge was (I think) correct in dropping the case. Petty stuff. You can't believe kids necessarily when it comes to commenting on a teacher. You know that some teachers who live in rural areas have PO boxes so the kids don't knock their mail boxes off the post and destroy them. Reasonable doubt has to be granted the teacher just like the policeman.

jamz
November 19, 2005, 05:50 PM
My daughters attend a private Christian High School. The History teacher (female) actually asked me to bring my collection of WWII mousers, pistols and bayos.....


Those WWII Mousers were pretty scary deals I tell ya...

http://www.mricenter.com/jamz/pix/dcat.jpg

;)

-James

CentralTexas
November 19, 2005, 07:12 PM
was this in?

twency
November 19, 2005, 09:14 PM
What state was this in?
Well, New Bloomfield is a town in Perry County, Pennsylvania, so since those two names appear in the article, I'm guessing PA. Incidentally, Perry County is quite rural. Within the past year or so the first, and still only, traffic light was installed in the county.

______________
-twency

lotus
November 19, 2005, 09:17 PM
How can they "refile" this? Double Jeopardy would seem applicable here.

KriegHund
November 19, 2005, 09:49 PM
And this is dismissed while the one kid who had the hunting rifle in his truck was expelled and criminally charged with a felony :banghead: :banghead:

MikeIsaj
November 19, 2005, 09:53 PM
It's in Pennsylvania. They apparently are filing a charge under section 912 Posession of Weapon on School Property. The law applies to ALL schools, not just public schools. It is an interesting and often miquoted law.

This law expands the definition of "weapons" specific to a school environment, and imposes a harsher penalty for posession.

The defense against this charge is "...the weapon is possessed and used in conjunction with a lawful supervised school activity or course or is possessed for other lawful purpose."

IMHO The big question is did he have a lawful purpose for carrying the weapon on school property? Was the vandalism of a serious enough nature to require an immediate response or should he have first secured the weapon in his vehicle and then addressed the problem?

I don't think he is criminally liable but I do think the situation could have been handled better. Pa. is a complex place. We have some of the best firearms laws in the country and a large concentration of blissninnies. You have a right to bear arms that is respected and protected by the State and a public that panics at the thought of a gun.

MikeIsaj
November 19, 2005, 09:55 PM
How can they "refile" this? Double Jeopardy would seem applicable hereI believe they can refile because a verdict was never rendered. Someone correct me if I am wrong please.

ceetee
November 19, 2005, 10:27 PM
The case was never tried, therefore, his liberty was never in jeopardy. If the case had been heard, and the teacher found not guilty, refiling would be unconstitutional.

The Real Hawkeye
November 20, 2005, 12:02 AM
This is the problem with laws that focus on what objects you happen to be in possession of in a particular place, instead of laws which focus on doing something which is actually wrong. This concept is a post Civil War thing. Prior to that, there were no laws that had anything to do with what you might possess. All laws punished actual wrong doing, and required bad intention for prosecution.

horge
November 20, 2005, 07:37 AM
Hawkeye,

mala in se versus mala prohibita.
I'll take your word for it the distinction was irrelevant in the US pre-Civil War.
:)

TarpleyG
November 20, 2005, 08:31 AM
Went with my wife to her middle school's carnival one year and they had guys there dressed like old west marshals complete with real, working sixguns and coach guns. No one said a word. This is just plain stupid.

Greg

The Real Hawkeye
November 20, 2005, 08:37 AM
Hawkeye,

mala in se versus mala prohibita.
I'll take your word for it the distinction was irrelevant in the US pre-Civil War.
:)Nope. I'm a law school grad too. That is not, however, the distinction I was referring to. Those have to do with conduct which is either wrong in itself (e.g., swindling a widow out of her rent money) or, on the contrary, illegal merely because there is a statute against it (e.g., running a red light on a deserted country road), i.e., not wrong in itself (no one is actually endangered, i.e., wronged, by running through that red light at that time). That concept is pretty old. I am, to the contrary, referring to the outlawing of the mere possession of certain objects, whether contextual or not (e.g., mere possession vs possession on a school ground). This is a novel concept in law, and accompanied our legal and governmental decline as a nation, in my opinion.

It started at the state level, after the Civil War, with laws designed to prevent blacks and immigrants from carrying firearms for their own defense. The statutes were usually phrased in general terms (so as not to violate the Fifteenth Amendment), but everyone knew they were only enforced against blacks and immigrants. This kind of law did not exist prior to the Civil War. Then the Federal Government joined in with laws, under a taxing/regulating authority pretext, creating crimes associated with the mere possession of certain classes of objects. These laws do not outlaw bad conduct, but the mere possession of certain objects.

The assumption behind these laws is that possession of those objects makes bad conduct possible, so we are outlawing, theoretically, the potential to do a bad act with them. This presumes a guilty mind, however, on the part of the possessor. Obviously, this runs counter to one of the foundational principles in American jurisprudence, i.e., the presumption of innocence, which is codified, though not in so many words, in a number of our Constitution's provisions. On that basis alone, these laws should be nullified, not to mention the basises of the Second and Tenth Amendments.

Fred Fuller
November 20, 2005, 08:45 AM
Judges in Pennsylvania seem to have the option to dismiss with prejudice if they wish, at least according to rulings and motions I can find on the net. If the judge in question REALLY wanted this case to 'go away' he could have dismissed it with prejudice and the DA couldn't have refiled it.

I would say the judge saw something about the DA's side of the case he didn't like and wanted to give the DA another shot at it, which the DA seems willing to take. Thus the case was dismissed without prejudice, leaving it open to be refiled. Sounds to me as if the judge in fact INVITED the DA to refile, and do it so charges will stick.

lpl/nc (IANAL!)

twency
November 20, 2005, 11:27 PM
I don't believe PA Magisterial District Judges (formerly District Justices, formerly Justices of the Peace) can dismiss with prejudice. MDJs are the entry level in the criminal system in PA. They hold preliminary hearings on criminal matters, hear cases on minor infractions such as moving violations, and hear certain "small claims" civil matters.

I don't see anywhere in the story (http://www.cumberlink.com/articles/2005/11/15/news/news04.txt) where the judge "invites" refiling.

______________
-twency

IANAL either

NineseveN
November 21, 2005, 12:25 AM
:neener:

Hope this doesn't go back to court.

silverlance
November 21, 2005, 12:33 AM
scary enough that when i finish this post i'm going to go to my car and remove the automatic eickhorn EMS folder from my medikit (which ironically i carry in the event of a medical emergency at school - i'm certified), my boker 3.5" from the center console, and sabre defense spray (which i keep only for dogs and aggressive homeless folks) and place them all at home.

oh, just a side note - no need to start debate - just found out that LAUSD in california removed "tenure" as it is commonly known from its contracts several years ago and currently offers "permanent" staff only the protection of "right to due process / hearing".

Red Dragon
November 21, 2005, 01:56 AM
Uh...up to 5 years for a misdemeanor?

Maybe I'm not remembering my military police training correctly but isn't a misdemeanor legally defined as a crime that is punishable by no more than one year in jail?

Spiggy
November 21, 2005, 04:19 AM
The case was never tried, therefore, his liberty was never in jeopardy. If the case had been heard, and the teacher found not guilty, refiling would be unconstitutional.
Even if the case was settled for criminal charges, you can bet the families are going to chime in with a civil charge.

RD, Definition is(according to my textbook):
"A violation of the criminal code that is less serious than a felony; often punishable by imprisonment for no more than one year and/or fine of no more than $500" -'Criminal Investigation, 9th Edition' McGraw-Hill, 2006

Doesnt give any restriction to a misdemeanor's imprisonment length... The definition could've been changed by recent social and political changes.

bigtex1404
November 21, 2005, 07:25 AM
I only graduated about 3 years ago from a very small Texas town. If one of us had our hunting riflles in our truck and they were found on campus, most of the time we would just be told to take them home, sometimes after letting the coaches see what they were and compare them to theirs at home.

The Real Hawkeye
November 21, 2005, 08:07 AM
I only graduated about 3 years ago from a very small Texas town. If one of us had our hunting riflles in our truck and they were found on campus, most of the time we would just be told to take them home, sometimes after letting the coaches see what they were and compare them to theirs at home.When I was a High School teacher, during hunting season lots of kids would come to school in their hunting clothes because, on their way to school, they stopped at their favorite hunting spot. If they shot a deer, they'd clean it and bring it home. If not, they'd just procede on to school when it was time. Now you have to assume that some of those kids had their deer guns in the trunk of their car. I think it depends on where you live.

The Real Hawkeye
November 21, 2005, 08:09 AM
Uh...up to 5 years for a misdemeanor?

Maybe I'm not remembering my military police training correctly but isn't a misdemeanor legally defined as a crime that is punishable by no more than one year in jail?You are correct, sir. That is the definition that I remember from law school.

Harold Mayo
November 21, 2005, 10:05 AM
Shameful.

I'm not even all that old (35) but I remember kids bringing rifles to school for show-and-tell. It was no problem. Just make sure they're not loaded and they stay in the back of the classroom except for when you brought them up for presentation.

Too bad that things had devolved that much in such a relatively short period of time.

5string_dean
November 21, 2005, 10:13 AM
As the computer tech/network administrator for Perry County, PA, I have worked on the computers of both Howell & Potter. They're both decent guys trying to do their job (yes even the Assist. DA... even though I hope he loses this one).

Perry County IS very rural and generally pro gun. The former president judge of Perry County once lectured me on why I ought to carry (this was actually before I ever owned a firearm). I have also traded shooting stories with the staf of the Sheriff's Dept.

It kinda shocked me when I opened a thread on THR and saw names I recognized! I'll try to keep a watch on this...

shaldag
November 21, 2005, 10:20 AM
If that place is so rural and pro-gun, seems to me like a lot of the residents would be calling the prosecutor and saying "I'll be watching your actions and will remember come election day."

The guy should have better sense. Even if the teacher was in technical violation of the law, cleary his intent was not. If the prosecutor felt the need to make an example, a slap on the wrist would have been more than sufficient. But to try to max it out? Or go for it a second time?

Somebody ought to run the teacher's pic in the local paper with the caption "is this guy a criminal? If you don't think so, vote the prosecutor out of office"

:cuss:

RW_Reagan
November 21, 2005, 10:52 AM
Jim Woods was my science teacher in Junior High (too many years now to admit), really a great guy.

The school is in town and Jim lives literally 2 blocks down the street. He's an avid hunter and outdoorsman. I can remember that he used to, as well as other teachers, leave their guns in their trucks on a gun rack during hunting season. Nobody cared or bothered them. A few times Jim would take kids of families in town for a quick hunting lesson after school or on weekends if their parents didn't have the time. He's a real great person and if he's your friend, he's your friend for life. I just can't believe that this is happening to such a great person.

Perry County has been blessed with some real pro-gun judges, as for Prosecutors, well, not so good.

A link to the West Perry School Board if anyone wishes to contact them :

http://www2.pa.net/wpsd/

I am sure Jim would appreciate any support he can get.

Brian41
November 21, 2005, 11:33 AM
I hope this guy get's off with no repurcussions, but i would fault him in one thing. It's just not smart to go around with a gun and not think about it, or forget about it, or not realize it's there. weather it's loaded or not, and Especially if its on your shoulder. You've got to realize the responsibility of being able to carry.


I was in High School (private christian school)during the columbine shootings and had a teacher who was an ex-LEO. He would often get on political rants in class, which i enjoyed because we shared common views on politics/RKBA. This particular day i remember him mentioning something along the lines of "i'm never in a place where a gun is far from reach" he didn't say much more, but i took it to mean he either had a firearm in his car, or carried one at school... either of which i was fine with and still would be today.

5string_dean
November 21, 2005, 09:51 PM
DA will not pursue case any further...

Just found this, which would appear to be the end of the matter... it appears that common sense actually won this time!

http://www.cumberlink.com/articles/2005/11/17/news/news10.txt

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