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Soldiers plead Guilty in committing an act of Self Defense

Discussion in 'Legal' started by Lambo, Apr 24, 2008.

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  1. Lambo

    Lambo Member

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    Maryland, My Maryland.......GEEZ!
    Those MFers in Annapolis :fire:
    ~Lambo

    http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/loc...,4714362.story

    baltimoresun.com

    Guilty pleas in gun case

    Judge postpones probation order so two soldiers can deploy to Iraq

    By Gus G. Sentementes
    Sun reporter
    April 24, 2008

    Two soldiers who had failed to get a criminal weapons case against them postponed so they could be deployed to Iraq pleaded guilty yesterday to misdemeanor handgun charges and were sentenced to probation.

    But a Baltimore Circuit Court judge agreed to delay signing the probation order, allowing

    [​IMG]
    Pfc. Denario Wesson,
    19, and

    [​IMG]
    Spc. Joshua Johnson,

    24, to leave Maryland and join their Fort Hood, Texas-based Army unit in Iraq for a 15-month tour in the war zone.

    The outcome was a quick but tentative resolution to a case that began with the soldiers' arrest after a gun was fired to ward off a menacing crowd outside a Cherry Hill nightclub March 19. Prosecutors refused to delay the case, despite pleas to do so from the soldiers' defense attorney, their commanding officer at Fort Hood and a representative from the military's Judge Advocate General.

    Instead, Circuit Judge Sylvester Cox accepted the men's guilty pleas, gave them probation before judgment and ordered them to return to Baltimore after their deployment for a follow-up hearing, so that terms of their probation could be set.

    "I'm happy that I'll be able to deploy to my unit," Johnson said outside the Mitchell Courthouse after the hearing. "I'm just happy that I can put this behind me."

    The soldiers had been visiting Baltimore when they got into a dispute outside Club Taste International about 11:20 p.m. Wesson said he reached into his car, got his gun and fired two rounds to scare away an advancing crowd that he said threatened to shoot them.

    An officer pulled over their car a short time later and arrested them after finding a gun hidden under each seat.

    Prosecutors said they had initially declined to delay the case because of the seriousness of gun violence in Baltimore, even as the soldiers' attorney called the prosecutors' steadfastness unpatriotic.

    But yesterday, defense attorney Arthur M. Frank thanked the city state's attorney's office for moving quickly to bring the case to court so that the soldiers could join their unit, which is in Iraq, by Tuesday.

    The unusual outcome of the court proceeding was made possible when Cox filed his probation sentence report without signing it. That relieves the soldiers of having to abide by the terms of the sentence, which would have made it impossible for them to leave the state.

    Cox said he would have the soldiers back in court when they return from Iraq, at which time he could formally impose the sentence or vacate the verdicts, which can be done in probation before judgment cases.

    "The city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland is not Iraq, although some of our citizens may act like it's so," Cox told the soldiers in court. Noting the soldiers' military service and their willingness to be deployed to combat, Cox said it was "more prudent" to offer them probation before judgment so they could go to Iraq.

    Cox then warned Wesson and Johnson: "But you understand that when you come back, you've got to deal with [this] court."

    Paul O'Connor, a city prosecutor, had recommended that each be sentenced to three years in prison, with all but six months suspended, followed by three years of probation.

    Joseph Sviatko, a spokesman for prosecutors, said the case was resolved satisfactorily. "We have to prosecute any legitimate gun case that comes forward," Sviatko said. "We have to do that in every case, without partiality."

    Wesson and Johnson each pleaded guilty to one count of illegal handgun possession. It is a misdemeanor because neither has a prior criminal record. As part of the plea, each man must forfeit his handguns, which each legally owned but did not possess a permit to carry in Maryland.

    In court, Frank argued for leniency, saying his clients had exemplary records. He offered Cox letters of support from their commanding officer.

    After the hearing, Frank said he hoped that the judge at the follow-up hearing next year could decide to not impose any additional supervision or sentence.

    "As long as these young men do what they're supposed to, that will be the end of the case," Frank said.


    gus.sentementes@baltsun .com
     
  2. ozwyn

    ozwyn Member

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    That's maryland for you.
     
  3. Master Blaster

    Master Blaster Member

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    If they were able to reach in their car, why didnt they leave? Who started the dispute? Why fire warning shots if self defense was justified?
    19 years old old enough to own a hand gun under federal law, not old enough to buy one, where did the guns come from? The army doesn't issue loaded guns to be carried off base when going to a bar do they ?
    A few unanswered questions that could in fact make me believe they got off easy.
     
  4. rbernie
    • Contributing Member

    rbernie Member

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    That was pretty much my gut reaction. We'll never know, tho - it's pointless to speculate.

    But we'll do that anyway, I 'spose. :)
     
  5. MechAg94

    MechAg94 Member

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    So they had plead guilty to a misdemeanor and pay a fine of their handguns. I'd say they got off okay. At least it wasn't a felony. I hope they serve their country well.
     
  6. NavyLCDR

    NavyLCDR member

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    I am not at all saying I agree with Maryland's laws. But come on. These two guys acted very irresponsibly and I think they got off very easy. Like was stated earlier how can retrieving a gun from your car and shooting into the air be considered self defense?

    It is very legal for <21 year olds to obtain firearms - federal law only prohibits them from buying from FFL's, but private sales are regulated by state laws and in most states it's legal to sell handguns to 18+ privately.

    In my personal opinion, in this case, it isn't the State's fault these two guys acted stupid, probably to cause the situation in the first place and to deal with it in the manner in which they chose. At least they weren't Navy - go Navy!
     
  7. Frog48

    Frog48 Member

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    I'm very skeptical of anytime a claim of self-defense is used when the circumstances include a nightclub/party/bar or anything along those lines.

    With that said, the whole "illegal handgun possession" charge is ridiculous. If you're not prohibited from owning a handgun, and the handgun is legally obtained, you should not otherwise need a permit for it.
     
  8. JohnBT

    JohnBT Member

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    "Soldiers plead Guilty in committing an act of Self Defense "

    Self defense? Big deal, somebody talked trash at them.
     
  9. Car Knocker

    Car Knocker Member

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    There is no federal law that prohibits anyone between the ages of 18 and 21 from buying a handgun. Federal law prohibits a dealer from selling a handgun to someone in that age group but private party sales are federally permissible.
     
  10. Crunker1337

    Crunker1337 Member

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    What exactly were they supposed to do? Take the beating and/or shooting that was doubtlessly coming?
     
  11. Grey54956

    Grey54956 Member

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    No. Their story is that a crowd was advancing and threatening to shoot/kill them.

    Warning shots may have been the best avenue here, as they would be hit with murder charges in Baltimore if they had actually shot anyone in self-defense.

    And so what if they were outside of a nightclub. They are soldiers getting ready to ship to the middle east. Last time I checked, beer and scantily clad women are both rare in those parts.
     
  12. VARifleman

    VARifleman Member

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    As for not leaving, it takes too long to start the car with a mob advancing on you. And if you run over them, you're that crazy hit and run psyco that killed a bunch of people with his car.
     
  13. FTA84

    FTA84 Member

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    The only part of the story I am a little unsure about is shooting in the air when a crowd is advancing on you to shoot you.

    I mean, I guess I picture one of those old westerns. Two guys walk towards each other on a dusty road with their hands at their hip. Then one guy, in an attempt to scare the other guy off, grabs his gun and shoots it into the air twice. In the mean time, the other guy responds to the drawn gun by shooting the airman in the heart. Seems like a good way to end up dead if people were actually advancing with the intention to shoot.

    If it was a crowd with baseball bats that maybe couldn't tell you had a gun, then maybe shooting it into the air would be a good way to warn them off.

    In Maryland, I suppose in that scenario you would get in hot water because you met a baseball bat threat with a gun. In MD, you probably are only allowed to take on a crowd with bats with your own bat.
    They do it in the movies, right?

    In any event, I feel for these guys. They didn't attempt to hurt anyone. Even if the whole story was bunk and they were just shooting into the air to impress someone. It was at most a very stupid move.

    These two gentlemen may give their lives for our country and people can't wait to punish them when they get back.
     
  14. NavyLCDR

    NavyLCDR member

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    First, let me qualify myself. I leave for Iraq within 8 weeks myself. So should I go out and break the law and play that card on the table? I am a 24 year veteran - I was in the military service before these guys were born. Personally, I think the state is giving these guys every break they can.

    We're talking probation, no fine, no jail time was mentioned. The judge effectively stayed the order until they get back. It looks like these two guys went out and did something stupid, got themselves into a bad situation, and dealt with it in an illegal manner. We may not like the state laws and it may be justifiable that we don't like them, but I and these two knuckleheads have to abide by them and be accountable for breaking them just like everyone else.

    And like someone else pointed out earlier, if this was a true self defense situation, their warning shots in the air would have gotten them killed. I hope they show some better common sense in Iraq.
     
  15. FTA84

    FTA84 Member

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    Perhaps I misread the story. I thought it said they were actually getting 6 months to 3 years in prison.
     
  16. tntwatt

    tntwatt Member

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    The judge effectively stayed the order until they get back. By placing this probation order on file without signing it, the judge put the punishment in limbo. Probably will go something like this when/if they get back:
    Judge: In light of the fact that you have served your country at great risk to your lives, I am vacating these charges.

    Guilty plea of a misdemeanor remains on the books but no official conviction.
     
  17. NavyLCDR

    NavyLCDR member

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    ...pleaded guilty yesterday to misdemeanor handgun charges and were sentenced to probation.

    Paul O'Connor, a city prosecutor, had recommended that each be sentenced to three years in prison, with all but six months suspended, followed by three years of probation.
     
  18. Ozarks

    Ozarks Member

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    Lose their gun rights?

    The question becomes one of will they have gun rights when they return?

    It may be no because there is a suspended jail term of three years...
     
  19. rbernie
    • Contributing Member

    rbernie Member

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    As opposed to the crazy psychos who fired indiscriminately in the air? Who's to tell the difference?

    IMO, if they had time to go to the car and retrieve a firearm, they had time to beat feet. They decided to make a stand, and in doing so they placed themselves on precarious legal grounds.

    I notice that they pled out and were not tried - I can only suspect that their legal counsel advised them to do so.

    There may have been a mob and a potential beating; there may not have been anything more than ugly words. We don't know, because we weren't there.

    I suppose the Legal aspect to all of this is that, once again, warning shots in the air do not help convince the legal community of your claim of self-defense.
     
  20. GRIZ22

    GRIZ22 Member

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    In my personal opinion, in this case, it isn't the State's fault these two guys acted stupid, probably to cause the situation in the first place and to deal with it in the manner in which they chose. At least they weren't Navy - go Navy!

    These guys were stupid and are getting off light. As far as the "they're going to Iraq" that doesn't excuse any of this. I'm a Vietnam Vet (Enlisted) and a Lt Col in the Army Reserve for the record.

    Defending guys who screw up like this gives gun people a bad name. You can't go around defending anyone's actions because they used a gun.
     
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