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.