A 57-year old New Jersey man embroiled in a dispute with his former doctor and the doctor’s attorney says he never threatened the pair, and shouldn’t have his firearms taken from him under the state’s red flag Extreme Risk Protection Order law.
Alfred Conti was in court on Thursday challenging the petition that allowed police to confiscate his five legally-owned firearms in September, shortly after New Jersey’s red flag law went into effect. Conti agrees that he’s threatened press attention and litigation against Dr. Matthew Kaufman and attorney James Maggs, but says it’s ridiculous to claim that he ever threatened violence.
Superior Court Judge Paul X. Escandon is presiding over the hearing, which is being closely watched by gun rights advocates. Escandon ultimately will decide if Conti can get his guns back.
Maggs testified in November that he felt threatened by profanity-laced phone calls an agitated Conti made to him after Kaufman refused to see Conti as a patient and sued him over negative reviews that Conti had written about the surgeon.
Thursday was Conti’s turn on the witness stand, and he readily admitted vowing to barrage Kaufman with bad press. He also conceded to a profanity-laced back and forth between him and Maggs, but he said that was the extent of it.
His attorney, Jason Seidman, asked him if he ever threatened another person with a gun.
“I would never do that in a million years,’’ Conti responded.
It doesn’t sound like prosecutors were able to document a physical threat by Conti, despite cross-examining him on the witness stand.
Sean Brennan, assistant Monmouth County prosecutor, asked Conti if he threatened to go to the media about his ongoing dispute with the practice.
“Sir, it’s not a threat, it’s a promise,’’ Conti responded, “I’ve been doing that since this case began.’’
Brennan brought up emails Conti sent to Maggs in which Conti referred to the Internal Revenue Service.
“Are you threatening to have Mr. Maggs or Dr. Kaufman audited?’’ Brennan asked him.
“No,’’ Conti responded. “Before this is over, I am definitely going to the attorney general. I’m going to the medical board. The newspaper is already involved, because I’m not the little guy who’s going to get squashed.’’
But, Conti insisted he has no plans to physically harm Kaufman or Maggs.
“I’m 57 years old, I have no criminal record,’’ Conti said. “Do you think I would want to make myself a criminal for a doctor and his pony lawyer?’’
Amazingly, while Conti’s firearms were seized almost immediately after the emergency order was granted back in September, the gun owner faces even more time before his guns might be returned to him. Thursday’s hearing on the final order will continue, but not until early March, and it could be even longer before the judge in the case decides whether or not Conti’s firearms should be returned to him. Conti first appeared in court to try to get his guns back last November, but the wheels of justice are moving awfully slowly.
In the meantime, Conti’s having to pay for an attorney for his case, since the state’s red flag laws are supposedly civil in nature, and public defenders aren’t an option for those subject to a red flag order who can’t afford an attorney. You either come up with the funds yourself, or you’re forced to go it alone in court. It’s another way in which the law is stacked against the subjects of these orders, but it’s not likely to be addressed any time soon.