A deputy fire chief from Carlstadt, New Jersey is facing charges of possessing a prohibited weapon after he was arrested with a silencer outside of the borough hall. While prosecutors in Bergen County and New York City media are portraying the arrest as the culmination of an investigation into international arms trafficking, Matthew Moran’s attorney says his client was actually arrested for trying to do the right thing.
Evan Nappen recently detailed the events that led up to Moran’s arrest last week, and paints a far different picture than the one portrayed by prosecutors.
Moran ordered “fuel filters” from an advertisement on Instagram. When the package arrived from China, it had two items that looked more like silencers to him than fuel filters.
Moran went to a friend at NAPA Auto Parts who explained to him that these items were not actually fuel filters, that he knew others who had mistakenly ordered them, and that he should get rid of them.
The next day, Moran voluntarily surrendered those “fuel filters” to the Carlstadt Police Department.
New Jersey law,NJS 2C:39-12, specifically encourages the voluntary surrender of silencers and other regulated items to the police and grants immunity for such voluntary surrender.
While voluntarily surrendering these items, Moran told the Carlstadt detective that he had made two purchases of which he received only one and that he was canceling the second order.
Moran notified the China-based Instagram vendor, PayPal, and his bank to cancel the second order and payment. He also alerted the US Post Office that he refuses delivery of any package from this seller.
However, despite cancelling the order and and telling the postal service that he wanted to refuse delivery of any future packages, 10 days later another parcel showed up at his home. According to Nappen, Moran “immediately put the box in his car” and drove back to the local police station with the intention of handing the contents of the box over to police. Before he could enter the building, however, Moran was stopped by federal and state agents who arrested him.
After the arrest, Bergen County Prosecutor Mark Musella quickly issued a news release painting Moran as an “international arms-trafficker” who “smuggled” contraband into the country. The smear included publication of his personal picture without his permission and claims that he had “numerous firearms, high capacity magazines, thousands of rounds of ammunition and police issued ballistic vests.”
The media quickly ran with Musella’s description of the case. Here’s how NBC New York reported Moran’s arrest, for example.
Police arrested Moran on Thursday following an international arms-trafficking investigation by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, according to a release from prosecutors.
Investigators say Moran purchased silencers from an overseas company that were “smuggled” through the mail to his Carlstadt home.
Detectives from the prosecutor’s office and Homeland Security officials seized firearms, high capacity magazine, thousands of ammunition rounds and police-issued ballistic vests after a search of his home.
As Nappen points out, both the prosecutor’s press release and all the media coverage based off of it fail to mention that ammunition is “routinely sold by the case containing 500-to-1000 rounds per case, and that it is not unlawful to possess firearms, ammunition, or ballistic vests in New Jersey.”
Large-capacity magazines are the subject of an ongoing federal constitutional legal challenge in response to Governor Murphy’s recent enactment, and Moran has not been charged with possession of large-capacity magazines. Moran has only been charged with possession of alleged silencers (advertised on Instagram as ‘fuel filters”), which he attempted to voluntarily surrender.
Musella’s press release truly makes it sound like Moran was some sort of international smuggler of silencers, instead of a guy who voluntarily alerted police to the suppressors that arrived on his doorstep. The fact that Musella’s press release doesn’t even mention Moran’s cooperation with police is disturbing, but not nearly as troubling as Moran’s arrest for trying to follow the law in the first place.