Another New York Injustice: 65-Year-Old Man Facing Prison for Lawfully-Purchased Firearms

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The kangaroo court trial that ended with Donald Trump being convicted of 34 felonies has rightfully infuriated and outraged tens of millions of Americans (while delighting tens of millions more), but for those of us who've been paying attention to the criminal justice system in New York City, the rottenness of the Big Apple on display this week isn't exactly surprising. 

This is the same legal system, after all, that's pursuing felony charges and a potential seven-year sentence for a Queens shopkeeper who accidentally shot a man who was assaulting his brother. It's the same criminal justice system that sentenced Dexter Taylor to ten years in prison for the "violent" crime of having unlicensed firearms in his home. And it's the same system that's now going after a 65-year-old Staten Island man for the same crime, even though the guns in question were legally purchased, according to his attorney. 

Police raided a residential property in Castleton Corners where they arrested a senior after allegedly finding his stash of real and fake guns on Memorial Day.

But an attorney claims that the defendant has a legal right to own and carry the firearms, and called it a simple licensing issue. 

Officers armed with a search warrant swarmed the home and property of Eric Schweizer, 65, on Governor Road at about 2:45 p.m. on Monday, according to the criminal complaint and police.

A police spokesperson initially said that inert grenades were also discovered, but firearms were the only devices described in the criminal complaint.

The criminal complaint alleges that police recovered three real firearms during their investigation. A black charger pistol, a Ruger PC, was loaded with 17 rounds of 9 mm bullets in its magazine. A Heckler & Koch pistol had eight rounds of 9 mm ammunition in its clip. A 40-caliber Heckler & Koch pistol was fortified with 13 bullets in its magazine.

Officers confiscated about 21 imitation pistols that “substantially duplicated or could reasonably be perceived to be actual firearms in that the entire exterior surface of said imitation firearms were black, making the pistols appear to be real handguns,” according to the criminal complaint.

Prosecutors tried to hold Schweizer behind bars on $500,000 bail, but in one small win for justice a judge granted Schweizer supervised release, which means he won't be rotting away in Riker's Island while his case winds its way through the court system. 

How did Schweizer pop up on the NYPD's radar to begin with? According to authorities, paramedics were called to Schweizer's home on Monday because someone in the home had fallen and couldn't get up. When they arrived, they spotted a handgun on a bed and notified police. Unbelievably, the sight of a firearm in a private residence was enough probable cause for a judge to sign a search warrant, which led to the police raid on Schweizer's home later that day. 

Schweizer has been charged with criminal possession of a weapon, criminal possession of a firearm and administrative code violations for the imitation pistols, according to the criminal complaint.

... Attorney Michael Vitaliano maintained the innocence of his client, Schweizer.

“Mr. Schweizer has been a law-abiding citizen for his entire life,” Vitaliano said. “This case is nothing more than a licensing issue as Mr. Schweizer legally purchased the firearms with a concealed carry permit for another state. We look forward to presenting this evidence to the District Attorney’s Office and swiftly resolving this matter.”

I wish Vitaliano luck with that, but I doubt that the resolution in this case is going to be as swift as he or his client would like. Under New York's draconian gun licensing laws, it doesn't matter if the pistols in question were lawfully purchased in another state. If Schweizer didn't undertake the herculean task of obtaining a premises permit for his handguns, the state of New York considers him a criminal who should be behind bars.

The verdict in Trump's trial has opened a Pandora's box when it comes to political lawfare, but it's also opened a lot of eyes to the politicized nature of New York's criminal justice system. Alvin Bragg ran for office as the candidate best suited to litigate the former president, just like Letitia James ran for New York Attorney General on a platform of targeting the NRA. Gun owners like Dexter Taylor, Francisco Valerio, and Eric Schweizer may not have been called out by name by anti-gun prosecutors before they were charged, but they too are victims of a politicized justice system; one that treats the right to keep and bear arms an interlocking series of felony offenses, and any gun owner who doesn't have his paperwork in order a "violent" criminal who needs to be removed from society.