Here in this country, we don’t allow convicted felons to own guns, regardless of what kind of felony. We treat routine tax evasion the exact same way we treat murders in that regard. It’s a pain for someone who’s a non-violent offender, but it’s the law and it applies to all.
What about those only accused of a felony, though?
Recently, I wrote about an Idaho lawmaker who got his gun rights restored temporarily while he awaits trial. However, he’s not the only one in such a predicament.
There is a lot of debate on gun rights … rightfully so! There are background checks for felons, “red flag” laws to prevent people with mental health issues from possessing guns and consideration on restricting some automatic weapons. However, when a person has been charged with a non-violent crime, should they have their gun rights revoked? John Drago wants to know.
US District Judge Sandra J. Feuerstein (Eastern District of New York) ruled in September that an illegal search was conducted by the FBI on John Drago. Drago, who owned and operated a check cashing business, Kayla Companies, was suspected of not paying his fair share of taxes. It’s a fact that check cashing businesses handle a lot of cash and with a lot of cash comes a lot of reporting.
Once Feuerstein threw out the evidence from the illegal search, government prosecutor Burton T. Ryan filed a superseding indictment on October 1, 2019 which stated;
The defendant JOHN DRAGO paid wages and commissions to employees of the Kayla Companies in cash (the “Cash Wages”), and failed to accurately inform the IRS of the payment of these Cash Wages. As a result, the Kayla Companies filed false Forms 941 quarterly for 2010 through July 31, 2013 with the IRS, in which DRAGO knowingly and falsely underreported the gross wages paid to employees and avoided paying the full amount of FICA taxes that the Kayla Companies owed.
Serious allegations that come with serious prison time. With that allegation, Drago, who maintains his innocence, demanded a hearing about his gun rights. He had no criminal background … so why not restore his gun rights until a jury of his peers convicted him?
That’s a good question.
To be fair, Drago didn’t help his case much. You see, the judge wanted a good reason why Drago shouldn’t get his guns back immediately. Prosecutors argued that his behavior was grounds to keep him disarmed.
AUSA Bradley King, assisting Ryan, was involved in the following exchange with Judge Feuerstein after she posed the question;
King: Your Honor, I can address that. Not only is this defendant in mental health treatment [note that this treatment was ordered by the government] , but he has engaged in obviously threatening behavior towards his pretrial services officer. During a meeting he intimated, he stated, that he knew when the pretrial services officer’s birthday was, and he proceeded to tell her, around that same time, that he had compiled dossiers of publicly available information on the prosecutors, special agents and court personnel involved in this matter.
In addition to that, he’s engaged in highly irregular behavior.
Judge Feuerstein: Such as what?
King: Such as first announcing publicly on a “Go Fund Me” page where he was attempting to accept donations towards his legal fees …
So the government opposed Drago’s request because he knew some birthdays and he had a ‘Go Fund Me’ page? Judge Feuerstein’s birth year, guess she didn’t want to share the exact date, is 1946 … I got that from the Eastern District of NY website. Bradley King is roughly 39-40 years old based on his graduation from New York University in 2002 (BA Political Science) and Boston College Law in 2005 (Go Eagles!) … thank you LinkedIn. My birthday is September 29, 1962. Who cares?
A case can be made that not just knowing that data but also expressing it could be considered an attempt at intimidation, a case of, “I know this personal information. Don’t you just want to wonder what else I know and what I can do this with this?”
It’s a shaky case, however, and unless you’re going to charge him with trying to intimidate an officer of the court, there’s no grounds there.
And asking for help paying legal fees through GoFundMe? Honestly, in this day and age, people ask for money for pretty much anything and everything. What’s the big deal?
Hell, a kid made bank after asking for money for potato salad on Kickstarter. It seems that asking for help with legal fees from friends and family is kind of a go-to for many people.
That’s hardly grounds to withhold someone’s Second Amendment rights when they haven’t been convicted of anything.
Plus, as Drago’s attorney has pointed out, his client is charged with a non-violent felony. It’s not like he’s an accused triple murder with a grudge against a half-dozen other people or anything. He’s accused of not reporting everything to the IRS. That’s it.
Yet this is where we are as a country.
Meanwhile, Drago is likely still able to walk into a voting booth next week and cast a ballot. Go figure.