Discussion in 'Legal' started by AdvOut, May 21, 2008.
Gun Dealer and Mayor Face Showdown
By ALAN FEUER
Published: May 22, 2008
When Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg stood at City Hall two years ago to announce that he had just filed suit against several gun shop owners, mainly in the South, it was in a certain fashion the capstone of a signature campaign. Mr. Bloomberg had already bashed the industry in several angry speeches, gone to Washington to pressure congressmen and lobbyists, and made his war against illegal guns a personal crusade.
Now, however, Mr. Bloomberg is likely to answer verbally — and literally in person — for his personal crusade. City officials said on Wednesday that he was virtually certain to take the witness stand next month at a landmark federal trial resulting from his suit.
As befits a court proceeding stemming from a deeply held conviction, Mr. Bloomberg will find himself confronting, in the defendant, a rather stubborn man of equally firm belief. His name is Jay Wallace, and he is an irascible outdoorsman who owns a sporting goods store in the Atlanta suburb of Smyrna, Ga. With his wife, Cecilia, Mr. Wallace, 51, arrived in New York City earlier this week in advance of the trial, which is to begin on Tuesday.
“I believe that I care more about firearms getting into criminals’ hands than the mayor of New York City does,” Mr. Wallace said on Wednesday at a pretrial conference at the Brooklyn federal courthouse, where the trial will be held. “I’m in the business. I know how my business is run.”
The trial can be read in many ways: as gun victim versus gun seller, as city versus country, as red state versus blue state, and, none the least, as a version of David v. Goliath, with Mr. Wallace in the self-appointed slingshot role.
At a deposition hearing last spring, Mr. Wallace’s chief lawyer, John Renzulli, described his client as a man of “limited funds” who had been sued by New York City and “its billionaire mayor.” Another of his lawyers, Edwin Marger, once described the mayor’s suit, reaching as it did from New York into Georgia, as an “extraterritorial act” — like the British invasion of the colonies.
While city officials would not disclose what Mr. Bloomberg plans to say when he appears, it seems that Mr. Wallace is relishing the chance to finally meet his nemesis in court.
“He made the allegations in the beginning,” Mr. Wallace said on Wednesday. “So I think he should take the stand.”
Legally speaking, the case is a fairly straightforward attempt by the city’s lawyers to prove that Mr. Wallace knowingly sold guns to out-of-state purchasers and that those guns and others eventually found their way to New York City, where they caused a public nuisance. To make the purchases, the city hired an investigative agency, the James Mintz Group, which then sent teams of undercover buyers, usually a man and a woman, to five states where they claim that they bought weapons in illegal “straw purchases” — those in which one person submits to a background check for a gun to be used by someone else.
The suit, which seeks no damages, would allow the city, if successful, to oversee transactions at Mr. Wallace’s shop, Adventure Outdoors Inc., through the powers of a special master appointed by the court. Aside from Mr. Wallace, 20 other defendants in the case have settled with the city, two have had their cases tossed from court, two have gone out of business and two other holdouts are set to go on trial this fall.
In the blazing media circus of New York, it will no doubt cause a stir when Mr. Bloomberg takes the stand.
The evidence should calm things down considerably, since it will be both various and mountainous. There will most likely be police reports, city health reports and reports by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Beyond Mr. Bloomberg, the city’s witness list includes a convicted felon who claims that he illegally bought guns from a pawnshop owned by Mr. Wallace; a community organizer from Crown Heights, Brooklyn, who had three family members killed by guns; a gun expert from Johns Hopkins University; one of the undercover buyers; and a man named, oddly enough, Mohammed Ali, who was once pistol-whipped to the head with a handgun that the city says came from Mr. Wallace’s shop.
As for Mr. Wallace, his defense was summed up on Wednesday by his lawyer, Mr. Renzulli, who asked rhetorically, “Is Budweiser liable if someone drives drunk?”
In a more active vein, the defense may show a so-called training video made with the help of an Atlanta agent of the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Bureau in July 2006. That video, taped inside Adventure Outdoors, largely consists of the agent calling Mr. Wallace “Jay” and praising him for his keen eye in spotting potential gun felons. (The city has described it in their court papers as “a made-for-trial movie.”)
Within weeks of the filing of Mr. Bloomberg’s suit, Mr. Wallace countersued with a libel claim against the city, arguing that Mr. Bloomberg had personally defamed him in the case. The countersuit, which is now being heard by an appellate court in Georgia, was filed by Bob Barr, a former Georgia congressman and opponent of gun control who once played a leading role in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton (and is now running for the Libertarian Party’s nomination for president).
Mr. Wallace also held a rally in Smyrna in July 2006, which attracted hundreds (one can find it, naturally, by searching “Jay Wallace” on YouTube) and started an Internet fund-raising site, bloombergfightbackfund.com, which lists its top half-dozen donors, with the Second Amendment Foundation ($5,000) at No. 1 and Jason Harvey, a soldier fighting in Iraq ($500) as No. 6. In interviews last year, Mr. Wallace claimed that he would fight Mr. Bloomberg to his “last breath.”
He and his wife arrived in Brooklyn this week and have rented an apartment there for the duration of the trial. There have been dinners on the town and thoughts of seeing “Jersey Boys.” While Mr. Wallace clearly has his quarrels with the mayor, they do not seem to have tainted his image of the city at large.
“I’ve only had a little exposure to New Yorkers,” he said as he left court. “But from what I’ve seen so far, I kind of like them.”
What's this Jay guys chance of winning?
Has to be pretty good.
My understanding is that the "investigators" filled out the form and the woman checked the box that says she was buying it for someone else, so Bloomberg should be picking a fight with the ATF. She filled out the form correctly. They came into the shop, tried to give the impression that she was buying it for the guy (which is a hard thing to prove) and then marked the box that she was buying it for someone else... If the ATF had a problem with it, they should have investigated. If that gun turned up at a crime scene and the dude "she bought it for" was a felon, then she goes to jail.
They are getting angry, when it is the form and the procedures they should have a problem with, not the gun shop.
O. So if he wins, what does he get, money?
No, this is the suit by Bloomberg against the FFL in GA. There is a separate suit pending in GA against Bloomberg for defamation in which the FFL is seeking $$ damages.
So a licensed private investigator is going to give sworn testimony in Federal Court that he broke the law?
I'm dying to see this.
I keep wondering if there won't be some criminals resulting for Bloomberg or his agents as a result of their, at a minimum, attempted fraud. These people set out to "illegally" purchase a gun as some sort of sting. Bloomberg really seems to overstepped his legal boundaries as mayor with this.
Can someone explain to me how this is not illegal fraudulent activity?
I thought that only LEO's could conduct stings. Private dicks are not law enforcment agents.
Pat Head is the district attorney in Cobb County. you should be able to google and find contact information to let him know what you think. The one investigator (the female) wont be able to testify since she was murdered by her mothers boyfriend before he murdered her mother then turned the gun on himself. It is also hard to say anything about the straw purchase since she filled out that form like you said... and also that their cameras failed during the purchase
we are hopeful as far as waht the outcome in judge Weinstein's court is going to be. This is the same guy that had the suits against the distributors AND dealers went through. This judge took away our jury yesterday. He turned it into an "advisory jury". So he can make whatever decision he wants no matter what the jury says. If Weinsten railroads us we will be appealing to the same court that Beretta had their case overturned and thrown out a few weeks ago
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