A Virginia businessman has been convicted of violating Washington, D.C. gun laws for possessing what amounts to, wait for it, replica musket balls. For that he was sentenced to time served, fined $50, and forced to enroll in the District's gun-offender registry.
Emily Miller has the story this afternoon at WashingtonTimes.com (emphasis mine):
In a surprising twist at the end of a long trial, a District of Columbia judge found Mark Witaschek guilty of “attempted possession of unlawful ammunition” for antique replica muzzleloader bullets.
Judge Robert Morin sentenced Mr. Witaschek to time served, a $50 fine and required him to enroll with the Metropolitan Police Department’s firearm offenders’ registry within 48 hours.
Outside the courtroom, I asked Mr. Witaschek how he felt about the verdict. “I’m completely outraged by it,” he said. “This is just a continuation of the nightmare. Just to sit there. I could not believe it.”
Shaking his head, he added, “None of these people know anything about gun issues, including the judge.”
His wife Bonnie Witaschek was crying. “It’s just so scary,” she said. “You never think you’ll end up in a situation like this, but here we are.”
Mr. Witaschek’s attorney Howard X. McEachern shook his client’s hand and said, “We’re not done.” Mr. McEachern plans to appeal the decision.
The 25 conical-shaped, .45 caliber bullets, made by Knight out of lead and copper, sat on the judge’s desk. They do not have primer or gunpowder so cannot be propelled. The matching .50 caliber plastic sabots were also in the box.
There was much debate over whether the bullets were legal since D.C. residents are allowed to buy antique replica firearms without registering.
The judge seemed inclined to throw out this charge since he repeatedly asked how the bullets could be illegal if the gun that they go in was not.
During lunch, the government came up with a list from ATF of types of muzzleloader rifles that could be converted to use rimfire ammunition. Not that Mr. Witaschek owned one of these nor was modern ammo at issue in the trial.
Nevertheless Judge Morin said, “I’m persuaded these are bullets. They look like bullets. They are hollow point. They are not musket balls.” He then ruled that Mr. Witaschek had possessed “beyond a reasonable doubt” the copper-and-lead, conical-shaped pieces in D.C.
The judge, however, still seemed to think this was a strange issue for a court. “It’s taken four lawyers all afternoon to get through an interpretation of whether or not these are lawful,” he noted.
Before sentencing, Mr. Witaschek addressed the judge.
“I’ve never been arrested in my life up until this incident,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion. “My use of firearms is strictly recreational. I’ve never had any criminal intent.”
The businessman asked for leniency so that he would not lose his license to practice his financial management company.
“I run the risk of losing my job, my occupation, as a result of this conviction,” he said. “I ask the court not to add to that burden of what’s already been done to my life over the last two years.”
Of course, this overzealous prosecution contrasts markedly with the District's refusal to prosecute NBC's David Gregory, who, despite being warned against doing so, displayed an ammunition magazine that is barred by the District's gun laws during a Washington, D.C. taping of Meet the Press. While Mr. Gregory ignored the counsel of law-enforcement officers and brazenly violated the District's laws on national television in front of millions of viewers, the District refused to pursue a criminal prosecution, citing, essentially, prosecutorial discretion, as it "would not promote public safety in the District of Columbia nor serve the best interests of the people of the District to whom this office owes its trust."
Kudos to Ms. Miller for reporting on Mr. Witaschek's plight. Unfortunately, we don't expect other media outlets -- most certainly not NBC News -- to highlight the injustices and indignities which Mr. Witaschek has suffered at the hand's of the District government and which do not in any reasonable manner "promote public safety" nor serve the "best interests" nor the constitutional liberties of the residents of the District.