In February, Jonathan Ryan, a Florida landscaper, was acquitted in 30 minutes by a Manhattan jury of a weapons possession charge carrying a three-and-a-half year minimum prison term.
Ryan, unfamiliar with New York traffic regulations, was stopped by police for making a right turn on a red light. When he complied with a police request for identification, he opened his glove box to retrieve his vehicle registration. A police officer observed a 9 mm pistol and a loaded magazine of ammunition.
Ryan purchased and possessed the gun lawfully under Florida law. He explained to the police and prosecutors that he had completely forgotten the gun was in the truck when he came to New York to help move his girlfriend back to Florida.
New York has the most severe gun possession laws in the United States. Generally, it is unlawful for a person to possess a loaded gun, except in one's home or place of business. Even though Ryan's gun was not literally loaded, under New York law, a gun is considered "loaded" because in New York "loaded firearm" means any firearm loaded with ammunition or any firearm, which is possessed by one who, at the same time, possesses a quantity of ammunition, which may be used to discharge such firearm.
Because the loaded magazine was in close proximity to the gun, legally it was "loaded." Conviction of this offense, a Class C violent felony, requires a minimum sentence of three-and-a-half years in state prison.
Up To 15 Years For A Class C Felony
If Ryan had been convicted of a Class C felony, the minimum sentence he would have received would have been at least three-and-one-half years and could have been up to 15 years.
Defense lawyer Mark A. Bederow told jurors that they have to prove that Ryan "knowingly" had the pistol in his possession to convict for the felony.
"This is not about having a gun; it is about knowingly possessing a gun," Bederow told the New York Post.
Defense lawyer Mark A. Bederow said his client should have never been charged with a felony.
The jury returned the not guilty verdict in 30 minutes. "This case was overprosecuted from Day One," he said.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in a statement that prosecutors respected the verdict, but defended the prosecution, claiming the gun was brought illegally into New York City and was a threat to public safety. This case demonstrates the value of aggressive and experienced representation by a criminal defense attorney.