Former Army Staff Sgt. Nathan Haddad was arrested in LeRay, Ny. earlier this year for possessing five 30-round magazines, which are perfectly legal nearly everywhere else in the country. New York passed a law in 1994 prohibiting magazines over 10 rounds.
For this, the veteran of the war in Iraq, who devotes his free time to supporting other veterans, was thrown in jail and charged with five felonies and faces a maximum of seven years in state prison. If he is convicted of even one felony, he will lose his Second Amendment right for life.
“He’s not proclaiming innocence,” Sgt. Haddad’s brother Michael said in a phone interview. “He thought he had something that was legal and it turned out that they weren’t.”
This is part two of the series. Click here to read part one.
On Jan. 6, the Jefferson County police coincidentally turned up at the same place and time as a meeting where Sgt. Haddad, now a civilian employee at Fort Drum, was to sell the empty AR-15 type rifle magazines. He did not have the rifle with him, so there was no threat of violence.
The soldier was asked what he was doing. Believing he was not committing a crime, Sgt. Haddad told the police officer what he was selling. The police looked at the bottom of the magazines to see if date stamp, and then arrested Sgt. Haddad because the items were made after 1994. (Earlier this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo changed the Empire State again so that magazines will be limited to seven rounds maximum.)
In a phone interview Friday, the prosecutor in Sgt. Haddad’s case, Kristyna S. Mills, asked me why there was so much interest in this case. The chief assistant district attorney for Jefferson County said her office prosecutes these types of cases “all the time.”
I explained that NBC News anchor David Gregory possessed the same 30-round magazine in Washington, D.C. — which has the same 10-round limit —- but the attorney general for the District of Columbia, Irvin Nathan, refused to prosecute.
Mr. Nathan wrote the lawyer hired by NBC that his decision was influenced by “the intent of the temporary possession and short display of the magazine was to promote the First Amendment purpose of informing an ongoing public debate about firearms policy in the United States, especially while this subject was foremost in the minds of the public following the previously mentioned events in Connecticut and the President’s speech to the nation about them.”
I asked Ms. Mills how she felt about the different prosecutorial styles in New York and the District.
“It is not our job to decide if the legislature was right in making the determination that it is illegal. It is our our job to prosecute and see that justice is done,” she told me in a phone interview Friday. “So if an arrest is made, we’re going to look at all equities of the case and make a determination about how we go forward.”
Ms. Mills explained that possession of a “large capacity feeding device” (the legal term for a magazine) over 10 rounds in New York comes with a charge of criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree, which is a violent class D violent felony offense in New York state.
She said sentencing for this offense was wide open. It could be any of the following: conditional discharge, probation, a year in local jail or two to seven years in state prison. If Sgt. Haddad is given jail time, the sentences would be served concurrently for the five charges because they occurred at the same time.
Michael Haddad, started an online fundraising effort for his brother’s legal defense.
“I’m just trying to raise money for this disabled vet who can’t afford $10,000 or $20,000 in legal fees,” Michael told me in a phone interview Friday. “I figured I’d raise a couple hundred dollars. And in three days, I raised $8,000 from total strangers.”
Since the effort has already brought in over $33,000, Michael asked his brother, who goes by Nate, what he wanted to do with the extra money. “My brother said, ‘We’re going to give it to veterans.’ So my brother — the hardened criminal — wants to donate money given to him to other veterans.”