New Jersey man serving 7 years for guns he owned legally
Posted on Tue, Nov. 30, 2010
Family: New Jersey man serving 7 years for guns he owned legally
By JASON NARK
Philadelphia Daily News
EVERYTHING Brian Aitken was or had worked for was wiped away one winter afternoon after his mother called the police on him.
Separated from his wife, the entrepreneur and media consultant, now 27, had moved back home to New Jersey from Colorado toward the end of 2008 to be closer to their young son.
In between jobs, his well-oiled life was running ragged, and on Jan. 2, 2009, when his ex canceled his visit with their son, he became distraught, muttered something to his mother, and left his parents' home in Mount Laurel, N.J.
"He said something that scared her, things that a guy will only say to his mom, like . . . 'Life's not worth living anymore,' " said Larry Aitken, Brian's father.
Sue Aitken, a trained social worker, decided to play it safe and called police, but she hung up before the 9-1-1 dispatcher could answer. Police traced the call and showed up anyway, and found two handguns in the trunk of Brian's car. And now Brian, her middle child, a graduate student with no prior criminal record, is serving a seven-year prison sentence for weapons charges.
No one blames Sue Aitken for Brian's arrest, except herself maybe, but his father and attorney claim that the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office and the former Superior Court judge who tried the case ignored evidence that proved Brian had the guns legally. The family has asked New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for clemency and has garnered a great deal of support on a "Free Brian Aitken" Facebook page and among gun-rights advocates.
Aitken and his supporters believe that he had a legal exemption to have the handguns in his car because he was moving from his parents' home to a residence in Hoboken.
"This case is the perfect storm of injustice," said Aitken's attorney, Evan Nappen, of Eatontown, Monmouth County, who specializes in gun laws.
The Burlington County Prosecutor's Office and former Superior Court Judge James Morley said Aitken and his legal team tried during closing arguments to raise an issue related to Aitken's moving that wasn't presented during the trial, but Morley wouldn't consider it. Aitken remains in prison pending his appeal.
A few weeks after Aitken's trial over the summer, Morley learned that Christie was not going to reappoint him, due in part to a 2009 case in which he dismissed animal-cruelty charges against a Moorestown cop accused of sticking his penis into the mouths of five calves. Morley said there was no way of knowing whether the calves had been "puzzled" or "tormented" by the officer's actions.
Nappen thinks the animal-cruelty case exemplifies poor decision-making by Morley.
"Brian didn't receive oral sex from calves; he only lawfully possessed firearms," Nappen said.
A spokesman for Christie acknowledged that his office had received clemency requests for Aitken, but declined to comment further.
Handguns in a duffel bag
When Mount Laurel police arrived at the Aitkens' home on Jan. 2, 2009, they called Brian - who was driving to Hoboken - and asked him to return to his parents' home because they were worried. When he arrived, the cops checked his Honda Civic and, inside the trunk, in a box stuffed into a duffel bag with clothes, they found two handguns, both locked and unloaded as New Jersey law requires.
Aitken had passed an FBI background check to buy them in Colorado when he lived there, his father said, and had contacted New Jersey State Police and discussed the proper way to transport them.
"He bought them at Bass Pro Shops, for God's sake, not some guy named Tony on the street corner," his father said.
New Jersey and Colorado are on opposite ends of the gun-control spectrum. In Colorado, all he needed was the background check to own the guns.
In the Garden State, Aitken was required to have a purchaser's permit from New Jersey to own the guns and a carry permit to have them in his car.
He also was charged with having "large capacity" magazines and hollow-point bullets, which one state gun-control advocate found troubling.
"What little I can glean about the transportation issue leaves me puzzled, but a person with common sense would not be moving illegal products from one place to another by car," said Bryan Miller, executive director of CeaseFire NJ, an organization devoted to reducing gun violence.
"If Mr. Aitken did the research he said he did, he would not have hollow-point bullets and large-capacity magazines in the vehicle," Miller said. "They are illegal, period."
New Jersey allows exemptions for gun owners to transport weapons for hunting or if they are moving from one residence to another. During the trial, Aitken's mother testified that her son was moving things out, and his friend in Hoboken testified he was moving things in. A Mount Laurel officer, according to Larry Aitken, testified that he saw boxes of dishes and clothes in the Honda Civic on the day of the arrest.
The exemption statute, according to the prosecutor's office, specifies that legal guns can be transported "while moving." Despite testimony about his moving to Hoboken, a spokesman for the prosecutor said the evidence suggested that Aitken had moved months earlier, from Colorado to Mount Laurel. "Again, there was no evidence that he was then presently moving," spokesman Joel Bewley said.
After Nappen raised the moving-exemption issue, he said, the jury asked Judge Morley for the exemption statute several times and he refused to hand it over to them. Morley, in a phone interview, echoed the sentiments of the prosecutor's office.
"My recollection of the case is that I ruled he had not presented evidence sufficient to justify giving the jury the charge on the affirmative offense that he was in the process of moving," Morley said.
Morley declined to comment further.
Aitken, who did not testify, was convicted and in August sentenced to prison. His father said that his son was involved in an "incident" after arriving in prison but that he doesn't discuss it.
"This is the most normal, everyday, All-American regular kid, and for this to happen to him is a disgrace," Larry Aitken said. "It's a disgrace of society."
I didn't quite understand the foray into bestiality. :(:confused:
I don't understand the single mindedness of anti-gunners over the hollowpoint issue. Why are they so rabidly against HP's?
Family: New Jersey man serving 7 years for guns he owned legally | Philadelphia Daily News | 11/30/2010
In the Comments Section:
Posted 08:57 AM, 11/30/2010LASNJ
DAILY NEWS OMISSION: Above all else, I asked Jason Nark to ask the readers this question:
Why would the jury send Three Separate Notes over a two day period of time... unless they had:
1. Seen Evidence that Brian was Moving.
2. Believed that Brian was Moving, and...
3. Wanted to find Brian NOT GUILTY.
The third note to Judge Morley asked:
"Why did you tell us that there were exemptions to the law, and that one of the exemptions was for moving... and now you will not let us consider this exemption in our decision?
I said all this and more to the author... I can only speculate as to why he or his editor chose to omit...
As for the hollowpoint issue - face it, people who know nothing about guns other than what they see on TV, get all sorts of wild ideas about things like hollowpoints blowing holes the size of basketballs in people.
Their ignorance scares them. Their ignorance REALLY scares me!
THIRTEEN JURORS of at least average intelligence... sat through two and a half days of testimony in Brian's trial, and asked Judge Morley to provide them with details of the New Jersey Law specific to the "Moving Exemption" while transporting firearms.
The Author of this article was not there... and none of the other Commentors were there.
So I ask once again for all of you to please think for yourselves and decide the most logical answer to my question.
Why would thirteen jurors send three separate notes, over a two day period of time, requesting to see the law pertaining to the "Moving Exemption"?
Here is an even better question:
If Judge Morley believes that the defense did not provide sufficient evidence that Brian was moving... Why not let the jury see the exemption, what was he afraid of?
Could it be that he was afraid the jury might make the "wrong" decision?
Haven't we already addressed this on the forum in another thread? You know, where we all wrote to Gov. Christie....
But like most news items, there are updates with new info. Hopefully, that is what I have provided by posting this news item.
Also, this is the first I have heard of this case. Might have something to do with the fact that I am on the West Coast of Canada at the end of 40 miles of gravel logging road - about as far as one can get from New Jersey's insane gun laws.
Also, here are some new links I have found while reading up about this case:
Free Brian Aitken | Facebook
brian d. aitken
How can New Jersey imprison a gun owner who broke no laws? - National gun rights | Examiner.com
So why do you care? You're Canadian, you have no gun rights to speak of. The time period where the Gov. could pardon (that isn't the right term) this guy has passed. Those of us who felt strongly enough, here, wrote to the Governor in the hope he would intervene in the case. If just an update, why not post the information to the original thread, and let it go?
Here we have 7 posts, most of them yours, on a rant about this travesty of justice.
For me, go ahead and vent. This will be my last post to this thread!
For another thing, we do have gun rights in Canada, it's just that our former Liberal government refused to recognise them, and now even though they are not the government now, they still block any attempt to give us back some of our gun rights. And yes, I do care - have for many years now.
Also, if you lose your gun rights in the USA, what hope would we have in Canada after that?
From what I have read about this case today, I feel that his best option is an appeal based on the judge not giving the jury full details about the law they were deciding on.
And, while I have not read any details on the search of his car, I would think that there is a very real possible illegal search here. The guns were in a box, locked, and wrapped up inside a duffle bag. Not exacatly in plain sight. How did the cop find the guns and WHY was he searching the contents of the car? What was his probable cause? The 4th ammendment can be just as important as the 2nd ammendment.
It is obvious to me, as it should be to anyone on this forum, that this poor guy got railroaded into a 7 year jail term becuase of this former judge. I am outraged by this travesty, and so should every red blooded American be.
Just remember, next time it could be you, or me who gets screwed by some libtard gun law.
This guy really got railroaded but with Nappen on the case Aitken v New Jersey may be the next big 2A case to go to the SCOTUS.
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