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
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
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.