First conviction prosecuted under NY SAFE Act overturned

Local News

BUFFALO, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The first conviction prosecuted under the NY SAFE Act has been overturned by the NYS Supreme Court Appellate Division on Friday.

The New York Supreme Court ruled that then-Attorney General Eric Schneiderman did not have the legal authority to prosecute the SAFE ACT violations against Benjamin Wassell. 

“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 be reversed and the indictment dismissed.”

Wassell was convicted on May 30, 2014 of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and third-degree criminal sale of a firearm. 

“It’s very difficult to get a convicton reversed,” said Wassell’s attorney, James Ostrowski, who won the appeal for his client. Wassell had been convicted of  violating New York’s Safe Act for selling two of his own assault weapons to an undercover investigator in 2013.

“I’ve been through a lot. I can take a lot, but when they cam into my house with their hands on their guns, taking my legal firearms out of my house while my daughter’s getting ready to go to school, it terrorized her,” said Wassell. “I can’t say as I feel vindictaed because they didn’t really rule on the things that really would have cleared my name.”

The State’s Appelate Division in Rochester, in a unanimous decision, has thrown out the whole indictment on procedural grounds noting that the State Attorney General who brought this case only had the right to if it was requested by an agency of the state like the superintendet of the State Police. There is no letter from the superintendent, nor is there any other showing in the record that a request came from the Superintedent himself.
   The appeals panel says there was no need to even rule on the other challenges, like Ostrowski’s contention that the SAFE ACT was illegal and poorly written. “Just because a gun has a feature that makes it somewhat more efficient, the whole part of the Second Amendment is to give you an efficient means to protect yourself.”

Wassell  served two tours of duty in Iraq and came home injured. “When we came home after protecting other peoples’ rights in anotehr country, those same rights, we come back here and they’re taken away from us,” said Wassell.

“This should be viewed as a beginning of a working repeal of the SAFE ACT,” said Steve Felano, who represents the website, . He is closely watching a case out NY City which could go before the US Supreme Court this fall and may roll back the standards that the SAFE ACT was based upon.

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