Guns and Gear

New York Supreme Court Overturns First SAFE ACT Conviction

Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

Kerry Picket Political Reporter
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The New York State Supreme Court Friday dismissed two SAFE Act charges against Benjamin Wassell who was previously convicted of selling a semi-automatic rifle to an undercover law enforcement officer five years ago.

The court decided that then-Attorney General Eric Schneiderman did not have the legal authority to prosecute the SAFE ACT violations against the defendant. (RELATED: Another Firearms Business Leaves New York)

Former NY Atty General Eric Schneiderman talks about gun control measures in 2018 (You Tube screen shot/ NY Attorney General archived)

In May 2014 Wassell was convicted of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon as well as third-degree criminal sale of a firearm.

“Although the People assert that the Attorney General had authority to prosecute this matter under section 63 (3) based on a request made by the State Police, such a request would confer that authority only if made by the head of the division, i.e., the Superintendent of State Police. Moreover, ‘the State bears the burden of showing that the [division or] agency head has asked for the prosecutorial participation of the Attorney General’s office,’” the court opined.

“Here, the stipulated record on appeal does not establish that the Superintendent of State Police requested that the Attorney General prosecute this case. Indeed, there is no letter from the Superintendent in the record, nor is there any other showing in the record that a request came from the Superintendent himself. Because the People failed to establish that the Attorney General had authority to secure the indictment and prosecute the case, we conclude that the judgment must be reversed and the indictment dismissed.”

This is the first conviction prosecuted under the New York’s SAFE Act that has been overturned since the passage of the law in 2013. (RELATED: New York City Confiscating Rifles And Shotguns)

The law includes many gun control regulations including the ban on the sale and transfer of so-called “assault-style weapons” — semi-automatic long rifles with features like detachable magazines, pistol grips, or flash suppressors.

Additionally, the legislation prohibits the possession of “large capacity ammunition feeding devices” (magazines or clips).

Prosecutors in most of upstate New York have declined to enforce parts of the SAFE Act, including in Chautauqua County, where the alleged crime occurred.

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Kerry Picket is a host on SiriusXM Patriot 125