1. Welcome to Oklahoma Shooters Association! Join today, registration is easy!

    You can register using your Google, Facebook, or Twitter account, just click here.

ATF lost courtcase and tried to hide court docs

Discussion in 'NFA & Class III Discussion' started by MrShooter, Nov 2, 2018.

  1. MrShooter

    MrShooter Sharpshooter

    Messages:
    4,174
    Likes Received:
    408
    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2010
    Location:
    Oklahoma
    Rating
    100%
    https://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2...-loss-in-ohio-short-barrel-rifle-prosecution/

    ATF Suffers Rare Court Loss in Ohio Unregistered ‘Short Barrel Rifle’ Prosecution
    BY DAN ZIMMERMAN |

    NOV 01, 2018 |

    122 COMMENTS

    [​IMG]
    There’s been much sturm und drang in the online gun community over the last couple of days following the ATF’s prosecution of an Ohio man who equipped an AR pistol with a Maxim Defense collapsible cheek rest. The prevalent take is that the ATF has unilaterally changed their interpretation of the law, altered their earlier rulings on AR pistol extensions and are about to come for our pistol braces. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Most of the panic and over-reaction is traceable to a Prince Law post on the case. But that post doesn’t mention some key mistakes the prosecution and the ATF made and buries the lede, only noting at the end that, unlike over 95% of such prosecutions, the defendant was found not guilty and the ATF got their ass handed to them.

    TTAG has talked with a number of people directly involved with the case in the last couple of days and here’s what happened . . .

    Toledo police responded to a domestic disturbance call in March at the home of Kelland and Christina Wright. Mr. Wright, a Marine veteran, allegedly threw a cell phone at his wife and was arrested. As a part of an arrest for a domestic violence complaint, police confiscated all firearmsin the home, including an AR pistolequipped with the Maxim cheek rest.

    When the gun was subsequently examined by the ATF, they deemed it an unregistered short barrel rifle (SBR). That determination was based on the fact that, according to the ATF’s measurements, the Maxim cheek rest — which had been altered with the addition of a rubber “cane tip” on the end — resulted in a length of pull that’s greater than the 13.5-inch limit the ATF says is the maximum for any similar AR pistol accessory.

    Wright had apparently added the cane tip to keep the gun upright when stored in his safe. Prosecutors argued that was an illegal alteration to the gun.

    As a result, Wright was charged with possession of an unregistered short barrel rifle, a felony.

    There were a couple of problems with the case against Wright, however. First, the ATF has never issued an official public opinion letter stating that AR pistols with such accessories — cheek rests, pistolbraces, etc. — must have a length of pull of no more than 13.5 inches to avoid being considered an SBR.

    The ATF had communicated that fact to various manufacturers in private opinion letters concerning their specific products over the years (and some of those companies have chosen to make those letters public), but nothing has ever been communicated to the general gun-buying public by the agency.

    As a result, the defense argued that Wright had no reasonable way of knowing about the 13.5-inch length of pull limit. There’s a Supreme Court precedent in Staples v. United States that found a gunowner has to know that his firearm has characteristics that bring it under NFA regulation to be guilty of a crime.

    The second problem had to do with how the ATF measured Wright’s gun. Here’s the standard method for measuring a long gun’s length of pull:



    [​IMG]
    courtesy theyorkshiregent.com



    The distance is measured from the triggerto the rear-most point on the stock along a line that’s parallel to the axis of the barrel. Here’s how the ATF measured Wright’s gun:

    [​IMG]

    That’s right, they measured it on an angle. The defense pointed out that measuring that way isn’t standard and was done to produce the longest possible length of pull. In this case, measuring on an angle produced a LOP of 13.75 inches, or .25 inch more than the supposed limit.

    The defense’s expert witness measured the gun the standard way:

    [​IMG]

    And…what do you know? Wright’s gun — even with the cane tip attached — has a length of pull of 13.5 inches when measured properly.

    So to sum up, not only was Wright unaware of the double-secret 13.5-inch length of pull limit, but his gun didn’t even exceed it. The jury found him not guilty in less than an hour.

    The Prince post also mentioned that the ATF asked for and was granted an order sealing a number of documents used in the case. As a part of their defense, Wright’s attorneys used a selection of those opinion letters the ATF had issued to manufacturers in connection with specific products under consideration. The ATF argued against releasing those for use by the defense in the trial, but lost that fight.

    The ATF then, reasonably enough, sought to have those letters sealed and not included in the public record of the trial because they contained potentially sensitive competitive information concerning the companies involved…not because they were trying to hide any internal ATF decision-making from the public. Those documents were never intended for public disclosure unless the companies themselves decided to release them.

    The other good news for Mr. Wright — besides the not guilty verdict — is that while the entire ordeal was no doubt extremely stressful, his defense didn’t cost him a thing. Wright was represented by a court-appointed attorney and came away owing not a dime. The cherry on top is that the ATF and US Attorney were publicly embarrassed for prosecuting a frivolous case, one with a couple of gaping legal holes that never should have seen the inside of a court room.

    [​IMG]

    Long story short, an innocent man is free and the ATF hasn’t done an about-face on cheek rests, pistol braces or any other AR accessories they’ve previously said are OK. If you own an SB Tactical stabilizing brace, no one is claiming it’s no longer legal. If you like your pistol brace, you can keep your pistol brace.
     
    GlockPride, Cowcatcher and bigred1 like this.
  2. SMS

    SMS Sharpshooter

    Messages:
    12,728
    Likes Received:
    1,251
    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2005
    Location:
    OKC area
    Rating
    100%
    Reminds me of the Friesen case where he demanded to see the ATF's "NFA Registry" and they ended up dropping some/all the charges or something like that. Of course Friesen ended up in other trouble down the road unrelated to that.
     
  3. MrShooter

    MrShooter Sharpshooter

    Messages:
    4,174
    Likes Received:
    408
    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2010
    Location:
    Oklahoma
    Rating
    100%
    What he should of been charged for is that horrendous looking build. Lol
     
    Tanis143 and zghorner like this.
  4. zghorner

    zghorner Sharpshooter

    Messages:
    2,022
    Likes Received:
    335
    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2014
    Location:
    se okc / tinker aea
    Rating
    100%
    i know man how much crap do you need on your gun? never cool when a gun has more accessories than scratches.
     
  5. Shadowrider

    Shadowrider Sharpshooter

    Messages:
    16,898
    Likes Received:
    2,153
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2008
    Location:
    Tornado Alley
    Rating
    100%
    Oh it's way better than that.

    The serial number on his gun was within a range that was known to have many alterations/mistakes or something like that by the manufacturer or maybe the importer. Something like that anyway.

    That was a problem from the manufacturer, not because it had been illegally altered and ATF knew it. During trial he made the court perfectly aware of that and it was the basis for the initial charge. Before trial, to intimidate him, they tacked on almost another dozen hoping he wouldn't go to court. The US Attorney was a real piece of work.

    Friesen brought in a statistical mathematics professor of some quite respectable repute. And it just happened to be the SAME professor that had performed the audit(s) on the ATF's registry and the found gaping holes and wrote the reports.

    This is just a couple of ways that he handed them their head on a platter. If the court transcripts are still out there and you like reading this stuff it's quite fascinating.

    He had all but two charges dropped altogether and he agreed to plead on the remaining two when they dropped them to misdemeanors. He got to keep his guns but I doubt he got reimbursed for his costs.
     
  6. Dave70968

    Dave70968 Sharpshooter

    Messages:
    6,254
    Likes Received:
    3,924
    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2010
    Location:
    Norman
    Note that the charges were dropped/reduced after the first jury hung on most of them (I think one or two were acquittals), and the balance on the hang was in Doug's favor.

    'Course, he subsequently went and stepped on his dick ethically and got disbarred for his handling of client funds, but that's another matter.
     
  7. Shadowrider

    Shadowrider Sharpshooter

    Messages:
    16,898
    Likes Received:
    2,153
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2008
    Location:
    Tornado Alley
    Rating
    100%
    I can't even imagine how they hung. After reading the 2nd trial's transcript it sure makes me never want to be in front of a jury.

    And yea, that second one sounded like an EPIC level of "failure to communicate" and it bit him hard.
     
  8. Dave70968

    Dave70968 Sharpshooter

    Messages:
    6,254
    Likes Received:
    3,924
    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2010
    Location:
    Norman
    The way it was told to me, the statistician, Fritz Scheuren, was absolutely brilliant, and ripped the NFA registry to shreds, but wasn't especially good at communicating with laymen, so the jurors had trouble understanding him. Also as told to me, his experience the first time around prepared him for the second round, and the ATF was scared to death of him being able to communicate--on the record, no less--in a way the average person could understand, and of what that would do to their attempts at future prosecutions, so they quietly tucked their tails between their legs and let it go with a trivial charge to get out of the spotlight.

    As to the latter, it was more than just poor communication, it was also actual mishandling of client money, taking fees not yet earned, charging excessive fees, etc. At least that's what the Oklahoma Supreme Court said in the writeup disbarring him (it was in the Bar Journal, which is available online for those who want to read it; case number SCBD-6333). He also had previous bar discipline and a federal conviction for willful failure to pay taxes for multiple years (noted in the Court's opinion), and the gun charge came up (because it did result in a conviction).

    In other words, it wasn't a one-off incident. And I liked the guy; he even took me to lunch a few times while I was in law school. But for those who think lawyers are crooks, well, the bar takes that sort of thing very seriously.
     
  9. Glocktogo

    Glocktogo Sharpshooter

    Messages:
    24,243
    Likes Received:
    3,335
    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2007
    Location:
    Collinsville
    Rating
    100%
    Long story short, ATF is too inept to properly use a tape measure, but they expect to be unchallenged when they issue determinations involving complex firearms laws and firearms manufacturing processes.
     
    jstaylor62 and dennishoddy like this.

Share This Page