Pantaleon said he doesn’t know for sure why the officers reacted in such a hostile manner.
“Let’s see, a black guy with guns, in Jersey City, in the middle of the night? Take your pick,” he said. “Would their reaction have been different if I was not black? I don’t know. What I can answer is, they broke into my house, they’re the ones who committed the crimes that night, and I’m the one who ended up in jail for 35 days.”
According to Pantaleon, both of the arresting officers “appeared to be white.”
“There is no question that the history of gun control is replete with racism — that’s a fact,” said Nappen. “It’s an outrageous situation. A guy’s in his own home, minding his own business. … From the beginning it’s just a nightmare for the guy, and [New Jersey’s] gun laws are so draconian. It’s astounding how awful they are.”
Pantaleon has no prior criminal convictions and no mental health history. He is not accused of misusing or threatening to use any firearms. His bail was set at $75,000, cash or bond — outside of Pantaleon’s price range.
“It’s astounding when a bail is set at $75,000, for simple possession charges,” said Nappen.
Nappen, who was hired with help from the website’s funds, was able to win a motion to lower the bail, and secured Pantaleon’s release on his own recognizance. Pantaleon was finally released from prison on February 27, after spending more than a month in jail.
According to Pantaleon, he lost his apartment as well as his job while imprisoned, and he is currently struggling to move forward despite now having a felony record and no source of income.
“Even with [the release on bail], you still need a substantial amount of money to fight these types of cases,” said Nappen.
“This man is what I’d have to call a law-abiding criminal, thanks to New Jersey’s gun laws,” he added.