First Ever SAFE Act Conviction Dismissed with Prejudice
Conceding defeat, NYS Attorney General agrees Ben Wassell should not be re-indicted on recently-reversed SAFE Act charges
July 9, 2019 | MAYVILLE, N.Y. – The 2014 indictment leveled against Defendant-Appellant Ben Wassell in the first ever SAFE Act case was dismissed with prejudice in Chautauqua County Court on Monday. This final action represents the culminating victory for Wassell and Second Amendment civil rights advocates across New York State who sought reversal of the state’s first ever conviction under the unconstitutional and ineffective SAFE Act imperial gun control edict. Additionally, dismissal with prejudice represents yet another positive and decisive step towards SAFE Act repeal.
“Judge Cass, a distinguished county court judge, has dismissed all charges against Ben Wassell with prejudice, meaning they can never be brought again,” Jim Ostrowski, Ben Wassell’s attorney, said. “It so happens that the error that the appellate division ruled on, which is the attorney general’s lack of jurisdiction, was only one issue in our brief. But, they felt that, once they had reached that issue, that was enough to dismiss the case, and dismiss the indictment and send it back to this court for what happened today. However, that doesn’t mean there weren’t plenty of other issues in the case, such as the lack of evidence that Mr. Wassell had actually committed these crimes in the first place, and the fact that the statute that he was charged under was unconstitutional under the Second Amendment because it banned rifles that are in common use among Americans. And we do expect that the five members on the [U.S.] Supreme Court who support the Second Amendment clearly will eventually overturn this law.”
“Six years ago, my life was turned upside down by a law that politicians enacted for political reasons that does absolutely nothing to protect the citizens,” Ben Wassell said. “These laws are turning people’s lives upside down, like mine, every day. I know at least four or five other people right now that have never done anything wrong that are facing felony convictions or have already been convicted for violent felonies. I urge everybody, if you don’t understand these laws, you need to learn. You need to educate yourself because, if you just listen to what these politicians say, they’re going to run railroad over everybody. Today, it’s finally over for me, but there’s a lot of other people that still have to deal with this. We have to stop criminalizing good people and passing laws that are based on sentiment and have absolutely no effect on crime.”
“As anticipated and in a punishing defeat for far-left progressive New York State autocrats, the full SAFE Act indictment against Ben Wassell was dismissed with prejudice Monday in Chautauqua County Court, meaning the same charges can never be brought against Mr. Wassell again in future legal action,” 2AWNY.COM Civil Rights Advocate Steve Felano said. “With this final and complete victory in hand, we now turn our attention to a complete nullification of the SAFE Act via the compelling constitutional arguments made throughout the Wassell case that went unaddressed by the New York State Supreme Court in the decision they issued on April 26, 2019 initially reversing Mr. Wassell’s indictment. 2AWNY.COM is collaborating with dozens of attorneys across the state who are actively litigating their own SAFE Act cases in order to reintroduce the same constitutional arguments over and over again until we foment a repeal. In essence, every SAFE Act case prosecuted by the state for the next 30 plus years will encounter the same arguments made in our brief as a major legal obstacle until the act is either no longer complied with by New York State gun owners, no longer enforced in any meaningful way by police and district attorneys throughout the state, and/or fully reversed or repealed by a state or federal court. 2AWNY.COM will continue this approach with full-throated aggression and unmitigated intensity until we secure a repeal of the unconstitutional SAFE Act.”
On Friday, April 26, 2019, the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department issued a crushing rebuke to Albany’s far-left progressives seeking to legislate Second Amendment civil rights out of existence via imperial gun control edicts like the SAFE Act. In a unanimous decision, the state Supreme Court ruled that the New York State Attorney General’s Office, headed by the disgraced Eric Schneiderman at the time of initial legal action, failed to demonstrate legal authority to prosecute the SAFE Act violations originally leveled against Wassell.
As anticipated by Wassell and Ostrowski, the state Attorney General filed a motion on Monday, May 13, 2019 to request that the state Court of Appeals review the April 2019 dismissal of Wassell’s 2014 conviction under the SAFE Act. Had the Court of Appeals agreed to review the Wassell decision and award victory to the state Attorney General, it would have been possible for Wassell to face re-indictment under the SAFE Act – a type of double jeopardy that would have been vigorously opposed by Second Amendment civil rights advocates in New York State and beyond. Additionally, a fresh audience of Court of Appeals judges could have resulted in review of the compelling Second Amendment arguments made by Ostrowski that were not addressed by the state Supreme Court in the April 2019 ruling. Such a turn of events could have placed the constitutionality of the SAFE Act back under the microscope and done so in New York State’s highest court, potentially resulting in an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and the overturn of the SAFE Act.
Acknowledging the fact that state Court of Appeals review could result in further appeals to the federal court system that would likely result in SAFE Act reversal, the state Attorney General’s Office withdrew its request for review to the Court of Appeals several weeks after filing it. On Monday, July 1, 2019, state Attorney General operatives communicated to Ostrowski that they agree the indictment of Ben Wassell should be dismissed with prejudice on Monday, July 8, 2019. Chautauqua County Court Judge Stephen W. Cass agreed. Wassell’s indictment has been dismissed with prejudice, victory for the Second Amendment has been secured, and erosion of the SAFE Act via non-compliance, non-enforcement, and repeal will continue.
In bold defiance of the anti-liberty agenda manufactured and force-fed to New Yorkers by the far-left autocrats controlling the entirety of state government, a Second Amendment civil rights renaissance is growing across Western New York, and the state as a whole. This is evidenced by the fact that, in the first two months of 2019 alone, all 17 Western New York district attorneys reached a unanimous decision that they WILL NOT prosecute the unconstitutional SAFE Act seven-round capacity limit provision. Additionally, within the same period, Wyoming County and the Grand Island Town Council both passed resolutions voicing strong opposition to current and future New York gun control imperial edicts.
Finally, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. City of New York, New York, setting the stage for an expansion of individuals’ Second Amendment civil rights outside the home. Indeed, U.S. Second Circuit Judge John M. Walker, Jr. expressed to Ostrowski on Wednesday, February 20, 2019 that the aforementioned case awaiting U.S. Supreme Court review will likely address the issue of intermediate scrutiny as the means for judging Second Amendment cases, and this will open the door for overturn of the unconstitutional New York State pistol permit regime via Libertarian Party of Erie County v. Cuomo, being litigated by Ostrowski. Each of these positive events coalesce to set the stage for the eventual overturn of the SAFE Act and New York States’ arbitrary pistol permitting regime, both on constitutional grounds. The end of New York gun control is coming.
To learn more about any of the above, please contact Steve Felano at (518) 852-1863 or [email protected].
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2AWNY is a force multiplier for the numerous Second Amendment civil rights advocacy enterprises forming the backbone of Western New York’s vibrant gun culture. We act as a 2A news and information distribution, policy analysis, and organizational driver for the many interest groups seeking to defend and expand Second Amendment civil rights throughout the region. 2AWNY is dedicated to assisting in the organization, promotion, and funding of legal challenges to the unconstitutional New York State gun control regime. We seek to make Western New York the epicenter of New York State’s Second Amendment civil rights renaissance. Learn more at WWW.2AWNY.COM.