Brian Aitken Pardoned….Finally

In one of the last acts before he leaves office on Tuesday, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) issued a long overdue pardon to Brian Aitken. The pardon issued on Friday pardoned Brian for possessing hollow-point bullets and simple assault. His earlier conviction for illegally carrying firearms was overturned by an appeals court who found that he was indeed, as he always claimed, moving to a new residence.

From the Courier Post:

Aitken, a businessman whose seven-year prison term previously was commuted by Christie, said he was “so happy to finally put this chapter behind me.”

“Thank you to everyone who has stuck with me over the years,” Aitken said in a Facebook post. “I can’t thank Gov. Chris Christie enough.”

Aitken was arrested in January 2009 when a Mount Laurel police officer found three unloaded guns in his car. Aitken had purchased the guns legally in Colorado, but lacked a permit to carry them in New Jersey.

Aitken served almost four months in a state prison for unlawful possession of a weapon and other offenses before Christie commuted his sentence in December 2010.

 We interviewed Brian on the Polite Society Podcast after the release of his book on the arrest, court battle, and sentencing to prison. His book, The Blue Tent Sky: How the Left’s War on Guns Cost Me My Son and My Freedom, is available on Amazon. I’ve read the book and it would be $1.99 well spent for the Kindle version to fully comprehend the war on gun owners in New Jersey.

Brian issued this note of thanks on his Facebook page:

Thank you everyone who has stuck with me over the years. I’m so happy to finally put this chapter behind me. Tuesday will be a sad day for the State of New Jersey but today is an incredibly happy day at the Aitken household. I can’t thank Governor Chris Christie enough. I’m sure there’s more to say but it’s all still a bit surreal. I just wanted to make sure you guys heard it from me first.

Since he had his sentence commuted by Gov. Christie, Brian wrote his book, got married, started a business, and had a daughter. However, unless I’m mistaken, I still don’t think he has visitation rights with his son from his earlier marriage which is incredibly sad.

You can see more about the Brian Aitken miscarriage of justice in this video by NRA News and in his talk with the Cato Institute.

I’m glad that Brian has his full life back now and I’ve both happy and amazed that Chris Christie did the right thing in pardoning Brian.

“There Is No Justice For Gun Owners In New Jersey”

The headline, “there is no justice for gun owners in New Jersey”, is a statement by Brian Aitken on the treatment that he and Shaneen Allen have received from that state’s justice system. He is featured in a new NRA News Report by Ginny Simone entitled “Accidental Criminals: Brian Aitken is Living the Nightmare”.

As both Aitken and Allen point out, if Ms. Allen had lied to the officer when stopped for the traffic violation in Atlantic County, New Jersey, she wouldn’t be facing up to 10 or more years in prison for being an “accidental criminal”. The judge in her case told her that telling the truth didn’t matter in this case; it got her in trouble. Isn’t incentivizing lying a perversion of any justice system?

Moreover, as Aitken points out, the gun laws of New Jersey are not meant to deter criminals but rather to deter honest citizens from actually owning firearms. Both judges and prosecutors want to use these “accidental criminals” as poster children for their goal of a disarmed public.

Every potential juror in Atlantic County should see this video along with Simone’s earlier one on Shaneen Allen. If they understood the ramifications, they might just vote “not guilty” in the jury room. Her case is a strong argument for jury nullification.

Brian Aitken’s Sentence Commutted by Gov. Christie

Here is the official commutation order:

Office of the Governor
Office of Constituent Relations
Post Office Box 001
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0001

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE ELECTRONIC RESPONSE

Please see below the signed commutation order for Brian Aitken, signed by Governor Christie at 4:30 pm today.

ORDER FOR COMMUTATION OF SENTENCE

WHEREAS, Brian D. Aitken was convicted of Possession of Dum-Dum
Bullets in the Fourth Degree in violation of N.J.S.A 2C:39-3(f)(l), Possession of
Large Capacity Ammunition Magazine in the Fourth Degree in violation of
N.J.S.A 2C:39-3(j), and Unlawful Possession of a Handgun in the Second
Degree in violation of N.J.S.A 2C:39-5(b) in the Superior Court, Law Division
(Criminal), Burlington County, New Jersey, and was sentenced on August 27,
2010 under Indictment No. 09-03-00217-1 to a seven-year term of imprisonment
with a three-year mandatory minimum; and

WHEREAS, the said Brian D. Aitken, caused to be made a written
application to the Governor for a Commutation of Sentence for the aforesaid
crimes of which he was convicted, and the State Parole Board, upon request of
the Governor in accordance with the law, has made an investigation of the facts
and circumstances concerning said application for a Commutation of Sentence;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, CHRIS CHRISTIE, Governor of the State of New
Jersey by virtue of the authority conferred upon me by the Constitution of New
Jersey and the statutes of this State, do hereby grant to the said Brian D. Aitken,
a commutation of the aforesaid sentence to time sewed, and satisfied on
December 20,2010.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, that Brian D. Aitken’s release from the
custody of the New Jersey Department of Corrections be effected as soon as
administratively possible, or within a reasonable period to allow for release
processing pursuant to customary policy and procedure. ,

This Order is subject to revocation at any time, at the discretion of the
Governor, without notice.

The Free Brian Aitken page on Facebook has lots of discussion about it.

NJ.com has the story here and the Philadelphia Inquirer has the story here. Some of the comments from the anti-gun sorts make my blood boil but I’ll just leave it at that.

Congratulations to Brian Aitken and his family. I hope his appeal which is pending totally overturns the conviction.

Hopeful News on Brian Aitken

According to this video that was released a couple of hours ago on NJ Gov. Chris Christie’s official YouTube site, he will make a decision on a pardon for Brian Aitken by Christmas. As Sebastian notes on Snow Flakes in Hell, this is a positive sign that he is taking this case seriously.

Glenn Reynolds has an interview with Aitken’s attorney Evan Nappen on his Instavision program. You can access it here.

Free Brian Aitken

Brian Aitken was a finance student at NYU, an economic scholar at the Foundation of Economic Education, a father, an entrepreneur, mountain climber, and so many other things. One of the things that he was not, however, was a criminal. No one, not the judge, jury, or prosecutor disputes the fact that there were no victims in Brian Aitken’s case. Regardless, he’s currently serving 7 years in state prison for a crime that thousands of people maintain he didn’t commit.

On January 2, 2009 Brian was arrested for illegal possession of firearms while moving from one residence from another. All of the firearms were legally owned—Brian passed three different FBI background checks to purchase and had even cleared an FBI screening for employment as a data researcher handling confidential information for a banking security software firm. His integrity, character, and right to own was not in question…so what was?

New Jersey statutes make it illegal for anyone without a concealed carry permit to possess a firearm even if it’s otherwise lawfully owned. The only way to lawfully possess firearms in New Jersey is through exemptions to the law like driving to and from a shooting range or moving residences. However, as they are exemptions from the law they must be raised during trial therefore removing the presumption of innocence for the charge of possession.

Brian had just brought his firearms from CO to NJ a week prior to his arrest–in fact, TSA cleared him to fly with them….the same TSA that terrifies five year olds girls and breaks a bladder cancer survivor’s urostomy bag. He had just moved back to an apartment in Hoboken that he had moved out of a month earlier and closed on the sale of his Colorado home 11 days after his arrest.

Several witnesses, including the arresting officer, testified that not only did Brian have multiple residences but that his car was packed with his personal belongings–so much so that it took the police 2 hours and 39 minutes before they found Brian’s guns locked and unloaded in the trunk of his car, exactly as NJ law dictates. Brian knew this because only days earlier he had found out through the NJ state police how to legally transport his firearms in NJ. The officers, believing Brian had done nothing wrong, then offered to leave the firearms at his parents’ house, but when they wouldn’t fit in his father’s safe the supervising officer decided to arrest him instead.

During the next 18 months the prosecutor approached Brian and his attorney with plea offer after plea offer. If Brian pled guilty he’d spend one mandatory year in prison and spend the rest of his life a convicted felon for a crime he didn’t commit….otherwise the prosecutor was seeking the maximum sentence of 10 years. Brian, knowing not only that he had done nothing wrong but knowing that the law didn’t exist to punish innocent people, chose to take his case in front of the jury.

During the trial it became clear to everyone in the courtroom that Brian fit the exemptions of the law for moving between residences. However, the judge withheld the law from the jury, thereby ensuring a guilty verdict. Regardless, the jury returned from deliberation three times specifically requesting to be read the exemptions of the law. One can only assume that this was so they could find Brian not guilty. The judge and the prosecutor made it clear that they had no intention of allowing Brian to walk out an innocent man. They were more interested in a guilty verdict than truth and justice.

Six days later Governor Christie decided not to reappoint Judge James Morley for his misconduct in 2 other cases where Judge Morley sympathized with an off duty police officer who molested farm animals.

Brian was sentenced to 7 years in state prison even though there was no victim, no violence, and no crime. He was sentenced by Judge Haas, whose only knowledge of the case was provided by the prosecutor. Judge Haas did not preside over the case or have access to transcripts of the trial.

Gun owners and non-gun owners alike have banded together, not because this is an obvious Second Amendment issue, but because the judge so blatantly and with complete immunity withheld Brian’s right to a fair trial.

The description of the case comes from www.briandaitken.com.

Evan Nappen, a New Jersey attorney who is in the forefront of gun cases in that state, has this summary of the case.

The Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, is being asked to commute the sentence or to pardon Brian Aitken. If you want to let him know your feelings, go here.

Christie is being bandied about as a potential 2012 candidate for either President or Vice-President. However, he has not shown himself to be on the same wavelength as the majority of both conservatives and Americans with regard to gun rights. My feeling is that if he wants to have any political career beyond the confines of the Garden State he damn well better come through with either a commutation or pardon – and soon – on Brian Aitken or he can kiss any national ambitions good-bye. And frankly, it ought to be a pardon as Brian Aitken did nothing wrong and a commutation doesn’t restore his constitutional rights.

UPDATE: Bob Owens has an excellent post on PajamasMedia about Chris Christie and the movement to free Brian Aitken. Christie, as Bob notes, has not been friendly towards the Second Amendment over his career. This will need to change if he ever has any national aspirations.

One thing people can do to get the message across to Christie is “like” his fan page and post messages in support of Brian Aitken. Alternatively, you can contact Christie directly at the Governor’s Office here.

Ramping Up The Pressure To Free Brian Aitken (Rally Postponed)

From the Second Amendment Foundation on the Free Brian Aitken Rally:

GOTTLIEB TO SPEAK AT ‘FREE BRIAN
AITKEN’ RALLY DEC. 12 IN NEW JERSEY

BELLEVUE, WA – Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation will travel to New Jersey Dec. 12 to join speakers at a rally in Toms River in support of Brian Aitken.

The New Jersey man has been imprisoned for essentially having two legally-owned handguns in his car, parked at his parents’ home, along with other belongings he was moving to a new residence in another city.

Gottlieb will join Scott Bach, president of the Association of New Jersey Association Rifle & Pistol Clubs (ANJRPC) at the microphone, along with radio personality Dennis Malloy, attorney and author Evan Nappen, and members of the New Jersey Legislature, Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll and Assemblywoman Allison Little McHose. Also scheduled to speak are firearms training expert Anthony Colandro and Gene Hoyas of ConservativeNewJersey.com.

“Brian Aitken’s case is a clear demonstration of how easily New Jersey’s restrictive gun laws can be abused,” Gottlieb stated. “SAF and ANJRPC recently filed a federal lawsuit aimed at how the state’s Draconian gun law is administered. How could I not be there on Dec. 12 to support a man whose case amounts to a civil rights outrage?”

The rally is sponsored by the New Jersey Second Amendment Society, which is raising public awareness about Aitken’s plight. Their goal is to petition Gov. Chris Christie to grant clemency and release Aitken from prison before Christmas.

The rally begins at 2 p.m. at the American Legion Post 129 at 2025 Church Road in Tom’s River.

As I said this past weekend, if Chris Christie wants to have a political career outside of the Garden State, he needs to step up and pardon Brian Aitken.

UPDATE: It appears from a notice on the Free Brian Aitken Facebook page that the rally has been called off – or at least postponed.

And there is this letter from Mr. Aitken posted in a column in the Star-Ledger at nj.com. I don’t have a clue as to what is going on or why. If and when I hear more I’ll post it.