Is Philly DA Playing Politics With Trump-Supporting Veterans?

You may have seen the story of the two Trump supporters from Virginia who loaded up a Hummer and took off for Philadelphia, allegedly with the intent to do something nefarious. The first headlines about the pair indicated that they were planning an attack on the city’s civic center, where ballots were being counted. Then the story changed; the pair were actually in possession of fake ballots that they were going to try to use to influence the vote count.

As it turns out, it looks like neither of those stories were accurate. At the moment, Joshua Macias and Antonio LaMotta are only facing charges of concealing a weapon without a valid license to carry and carrying a weapon in public in Philadelphia without a carry permit. To be clear, these are still serious charges; the pair could be facing years in prison if convicted, but they’re not being formally accused of trying to kick off a revolution, planning any acts of violence, or attempting to commit voter fraud.

A press release from the Veterans for Trump group characterized Macias and LaMotta as “political prisoners” of an “activist” district attorney. A Veterans for Trump official did not respond to a request from Military Times for further comment.

The Philadelphia Police Department is no longer investigating the two men beyond the weapons charges, according to a department spokesperson reached by Military Times.

Macias did not intend violence and “held a reasonable belief” his Virginia permit to carry his .40 caliber handgun was reciprocally recognized in Pennsylvania, according to his attorney, A. Charles Peruto Jr., who spoke with Military Times by phone on Wednesday afternoon.

Peruto said that the charges are “100 percent” politically motivated.

“There are hundreds of cases” where the state weapons permit charge is reduced to a misdemeanor, Peruto told Military Times. Pennsylvania law allows the charge to be reduced to a first-degree misdemeanor if the accused is otherwise eligible for a Pennsylvania gun permit.

Was it reasonable for Macias to believe his license to carry in Virginia was going to be recognized in Pennsylvania? Maybe, though if he’d been paying attention to Second Amendment issues in the state he would been aware that in 2018 Pennsylvania’s AG revoked the state’s reciprocity agreement with Virginia.

What about the claim that the pair are political prisoners of an “activist” district attorney? At the moment Macias and LaMotta are each being held on $750,000 bond, which is not only very high bond for a non-violent offense, but does seem out of character for D.A. Larry Krasner. As the Michael Bloomberg-funded gun control news site The Trace reported earlier this year, Krasner has developed a reputation for going easy on those caught carrying without a license in Philly.

As DA, Krasner has declined to prosecute some nonviolent cases of illegal gun possession, typically involving people carrying without a state-issued license (outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvanians can openly carry a weapon without a license). Before Krasner arrived, the prosecutor’s office only rarely sent gun possession defendants to a program called Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, or ARD, which puts participants on a path to supervision (akin to probation) without marring their record with a conviction. Krasner made it policy to divert to ARD gun carriers who had previously clean records and had purchased their weapons legally.

Krasner’s policy would seem to apply to Macias and LaMotta, both of whom have no previous convictions and legally purchased the handguns they had with them when they were arrested. Instead of referring the men’s cases to the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, Krasner seems intent on making an example of the pair.

From what I know of this case, the two veterans who were arrested in Philly sound like a couple of guys who got caught up in the post-election passions, not domestic terrorists who had plans to do harm to anyone. You may think they’re goofballs, but even police and prosecutors aren’t accusing them of having any nefarious intent when they drove to Philadelphia.

And yes, it sure looks like Larry Krasner is rejecting his own philosophy of not prosecuting non-violent cases of illegal gun possession because of who Macias and LaMotta are; out-of-state Trump lovers. If Krasner’s going to be consistent in his policy, the two veterans should be offered the opportunity to resolve their charges without prosecution.