Elizaveta Zlatkis doesn’t own any working firearms, but the Queens, New York woman is still facing a felony-level gun charge after the NYPD raided her home last December and confiscated what appeared to be 22 different long guns and hand guns from her home.
As it turns out, all of the supposed firearms but one were actually airsoft gun or starter pistols, and the one actual firearm had been rendered inoperable because the trigger, hand grips, and internal parts had all been removed. Despite the fact that none of Zlatkis’ guns were actually guns, Queens D.A. Melinda Katz has not only refused to drop the charges but has declined to offer Zlatkis a plea deal.
The case has made her life hell, she said. A quick Google search of her uncommon name reveals why. The first six results are news articles about her arrest.
Friends from high school have posted those articles on Facebook and she decided to turn down an initial job offer after she learned about the company’s intensive background checks, Zlatkis said.
“I look completely crazy,” Zltakis told the Eagle. “It’s humiliating.”
She and her husband Elvis Selimi loan the guns to rappers and producers to use in music videos, she said. Zltakis even appears in the background of at least one of the videos for a song by the artist Tay Spades.
“We do videos with them as props,” said Rosedale rapper Crucial, who has become friends with Zlatkis and Selimi. “I didn’t know you could actually get in trouble with all that. That’s wild. They’re fake.”
Zlatkis is also charged with eight misdemeanors for possessing ammunition and endangering a child, a charge related to the alleged weapons offenses. Semini has been charged with a handful of misdemeanors.
After spending a night in the 112th Precinct following her arrest last year, Zltakis was released on her own recognizance at arraignment. The judge recognized the absurdity of the charges even then, said her attorney Joe Murray.
“Not a single gun was real,” said Murray, who ran for Queens DA in 2019.
“I want to clear her name. She’s not a gangster.”
She’s not a gangster, but in the eyes of the law Zlatkis may very well be a gun owner, since a firearm is defined federally to include a finished frame or receiver for a gun, even if it doesn’t have a trigger attached to it. Even starter pistols meet the definition of a firearm under federal law because the ATF says they can be “readily converted” into a real firearm.
Zlatkis is facing first degree criminal weapons charges, which in New York state is reserved for cases that involve ten or more firearms. As far as prosecutors are concerned, it doesn’t make any difference that none of the guns were actually capable of firing live ammunition. If Zlatkis possessed at least ten starter pistols or inoperable guns, that’s enough to charge her with a crime punishable by up to 25 years in prison.
What gives this case an extra dose of lunacy is the fact that, while Zlatkis is looking at decades behind bars for possessing non-functional firearms, those arrested in New York City for actually shooting someone are quickly returning to the streets.
Among those accused of committing another crime after an initial gun charge is Tremayne Silvia, 41, who cops say shot a man in the head just weeks after he was let out of jail following his arrest in another shooting.
Silvia allegedly fired a bullet at a woman’s fence while the two argued at 164th Street and 107th Avenue in Jamaica, Queens, on July 26, according to a criminal complaint. He was arrested a week later, on Aug. 4, after cops say they spotted him near that same corner, and found him carrying a loaded gun and eight glassine envelopes of heroin.
But Silvia paid his $30,000 bail bond three days after his arrest, leaving him free to terrorize the same corner again on Sept. 13, as a wake for a Marine vet was happening nearby, police said.
In that incident, Silvia allegedly shot Jemay Pollard while he was standing with a group outside a home. Police are currently looking to arrest Pollard in that case.
The New York Post reports that 247 people arrested for illegally possessing a gun this year have been accused of new crimes within just 60 days of their first arrest, and only 32 of them are currently behind bars. The rest have all been let loose even as the number of shootings in the city continues to rise at rates unseen for a decade or more.
New York City continues to get its approach to guns completely backwards. Law abiding citizens face immense difficulties in legally purchasing and keeping a gun in their home, and it’s a near impossibility for the average citizen to obtain a carry license. Meanwhile, those accused of illegally possessing a gun and using it in a violent crime are given a slap on the wrist and sent on their way in the hopes that they’ll return for their trial.
Elizaveta Zlatki doesn’t deserve decades behind bars for possession of inoperable firearms and airsoft guns, but then again, no New Yorker deserves to live under rules that fail to recognize their Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms. Unfortunately, millions of them do, and relief is going to have to come from the courts thanks to officials from the mayor to local prosecutors who have no desire to see the Second Amendment enforced in New York City.