(CA) Mayor under investigation, but still gets gun permit


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Drizzt
May 19, 2003, 10:09 PM
Modesto Bee

May 17, 2003, Saturday, ALL EDITION

SECTION: A; Pg. A1

LENGTH: 789 words

HEADLINE: SABATINO GRANTED PERMIT FOR A CONCEALED WEAPON POLICE SAY THREATS WARRANT APPROVAL TO CARRY GUN, BUT MAYOR LEAVES IT HOME

BYLINE: BY GARTH STAPLEY AND MICHAEL G. MOONEY, BEE STAFF WRITERS

BODY:
Modesto Mayor Carmen Sabatino, subject of death threats and under criminal investigation, has received a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

But his new Glock 9 mm might not do him much good. He said he leaves it at home.

"I don't even carry it," Sabatino said. "The only weapon people have to worry about is my tongue, and I'm not going to keep that concealed."

For seven months, investigators with the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department and district attorney's office have been looking into Sabatino's activities. A search-warrant affidavit partly released two weeks ago notes suspicions of "large-scale embezzlement," grand theft and using public resources for personal benefit.

Police Chief Roy Wasden said his department has not issued concealed weapon permits to other people under criminal investigation. He refused to discuss particulars of Sabatino's circumstances.

Sabatino said Wasden urged him to apply for a permit after a Modesto police officer killed 11-year-old Alberto Sepulveda in September 2000. The boy was shot dead after Special Weapons and Tactics team officers forced their way into the Sepulveda home to help federal agents arrest Alberto's father, Moises Sepulveda Sr., on a drug-trafficking charge.

MAYOR DEFENDED OFFICER

The mayor drew most of the wrath from an unruly crowd confronting the City Council four months later. He defended the police officer involved in the shooting and pleaded for patience pending investigations, which later declared the fatal shooting an accident.

In July 2001, Sabatino acknowledged having received death threats and said he was thinking about buying a gun and taking a safety course.

A year and a half later, the mayor and the council together confronted the issue of arming themselves at meetings.

The issue erupted in January of this year when Councilman Will O'Bryant, who needs no weapons permit because he is a retired sheriff's deputy, refused to say whether he took a gun to a heated hearing.

At that time, Sabatino said he was still pursuing a permit, but had not bought a gun or completed training.

The council in March rejected Sabatino's push to ban concealed weapons from the council chamber.

The next month, Wasden's assistant chief, Dave Young, approved Sabatino's permit. "We felt the mayor's need was serious," Young said.

IT'S UP TO LOCAL AUTHORITIES

California law requires police chiefs and sheriffs to determine that applicants have good moral character and good reason for self-protection. But the law leaves it up to local authorities to define both.

Also, applicants must take a training course.

"We ask, 'Why do you need a weapon and everyone else doesn't?'" Young said. A typical applicant works in law enforcement or routinely carries large sums of money or valuables.

Wasden said he conferred with the district attorney's office and concluded that the Sabatino investigation is months away from resolution. That was one reason for approving the mayor's permit, he said.

However, District Attorney James Brazelton said three weeks ago that the investigation should wrap up "within the next month or so."

Said Sabatino: "I appreciate that the police chief hasn't convicted me of a political crime."

Counting the mayor, 37 people have concealed weapons permits in Modesto.

In contrast, 418 people have concealed weapons permits from the Sheriff's Department, which reviews applications from county territory, Ceres and four smaller cities -- Hughson, Patterson, Riverbank and Waterford -- that contract with the sheriff for police services.

NOT PART OF THE PROCEDURE

Detective Sgt. Greg Valdez, who handles applications for the Sheriff's Department, said he normally would not know if another agency was investigating an applicant. It therefore would not figure into the decision on whether to issue a permit, he said.

"Out of fairness to him (Sabatino), he has not been accused of or convicted of any crime," Valdez said.

Wasden said he will consider revoking Sabatino's permit if prosecutors file charges.

Valdez said he had revoked seven permits in 10 months for various reasons, including crimes committed by permit holders.

Sabatino made light of his decision not to carry a gun, saying his companion worries that if his cellular phone rang, "I would answer my gun and shoot myself.

"Actually, I'm a pretty good marksman," the mayor continued. "It's like golf. If you go out and just hit the ball, you're OK, but if you start worrying about how you hold your hand, you've got problems. I just point and shoot and it works for me."

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Standing Wolf
May 19, 2003, 10:13 PM
"We ask, 'Why do you need a weapon and everyone else doesn't?'" Young said. A typical applicant works in law enforcement or routinely carries large sums of money or valuables.

Commoners need not apply in the People's Republic of California.

Henry Bowman
May 20, 2003, 10:58 AM
Calling Jim March . . .
Care to comment?

Jim March
May 20, 2003, 04:34 PM
Heh. I'm on it all right. Can't talk details. Gonna be BIG :).

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