Skip to comments.Rifle-Toting Teen Found Not Guilty; Jury Says: 'We Upheld the Law'(MI)
Posted on 07/13/2012 6:48:19 AM PDT by marktwain
BLOOMFIELD TWP. Sean Combs, the Troy 18-year-old arrested for carrying a rifle in downtown Birmingham, was found not guilty Thursday afternoon of brandishing a firearm and disturbing the peace.
After nearly five hours of deliberation on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning at the 48th District Court, many on the seven-member jury were confident in their final decision.
"We upheld the law," said Rev. Julius DelPino, a jury member from Rochester Hills. "Based on how the law is written, (Combs) was not breaking the law."
Combs was arrested on April 13 after he was stopped by two Birmingham Police officers while he had his loaded M1 Garand rifle slung over his shoulder. When officers asked for identification, Combs refused.
As an adult, Combs was legally able to carry the rifle a birthday present from an older brother and under Michigan law, he wasn't required to show police ID. However, officers testified Wednesday that Combs appeared very young and upon refusing show ID, Combs caused enough of a disturbance to attract a crowd.
A third charge of obstructing an officer was dismissed Wednesday by Judge Marc Barron due to lack of evidence. 'I'm not a rebel,' Combs says
However, jury members agreed with Combs and the arguments presented by his attorney, Jim Makowski, a Dearborn-based attorney who specializes in Second Amendment issues.
"(The jury) came out with the right verdict," said Combs outside the courtroom Thursday, after being hugged by his mother, girlfriend and an older brother. Combs' father, a retired police officer, was not present.
Combs said carrying the rifle that night in Birmingham was a form of self-expression.
"I broke a social rule," Combs said. "There's a reason to have those rules, but I don't think every social rule should be followed to a tee."
Outside of that April incident, Combs said he's not the rebel many believe him to be. Combs, who graduated from Troy High School this spring where he was captain of the track team, is looking to study engineering at Oakland Community College in the fall.
"I get that punk rebel kid thing a lot," Combs said. "(But) I was never a rebel in school. I was not afraid to show my opinion, but I'm not a rebel."
Combs' mother, Pam Nitnyk, said she was nervous going into Wednesday's trial but is relieved everything turned out the way it did.
"I was nervous but fairly confident," Nitnyk said. "I was depending on seven people who didn't know my son."
"I just think everyone needs to be know the laws," she added. Case attracts attention of open carry advocates
Makowski said Thursday's verdict reaffirmed Michigan's open carry laws and most importantly, distinguished open carry from "brandishing."
"Open carry is not brandishing and brandishing is not open carry, there is a distinction," Makowski said, adding, "If I feel the need to openly carry a long gun, the courts have affirmed that I can do that."
Since Combs' arrest, the case has caused an uproar in the open carry community, which has rallied around Combs to show its support.
Open carry advocates, many of whom learned about Combs' case on opencarry.org, have gathered as a group in Birmingham's Shain Park twice now once in June and again last week while openly carrying rifles and pistols in support of Combs.
The verdict was congruent with the laws as they are written," said Ken Herman, a Clio resident and participant in the June open carry protest in Shain Park. It is just another relief that our justice system has come through and his peers were able to remain objective in finding a verdict.
However, while the brandishing charge was the subject of a pair of heated briefs written by Makowski and the prosecuting attorney, Mary Kucharek of Beier Howlett, P.C., the jury actually spent the most time debating the disturbing the peace charge.
After spending two hours in deliberation on Wednesday, the jury returned at 5 p.m. noting they had reached a verdict on the brandishing charge but not the disturbing the peace charge. The jury spent nearly three additional hours debating that charge Thursday morning. Combs says civil suit still on the table
The big question after the trial, however: will Combs do it again?
Combs said that Friday night in April was the only night he intended to openly carry his rifle, anyway.
"I probably won't be doing something like this in the near future," Combs said Thursday. "I just want to get away from the stress and the drama and be a normal person again."
Despite finding Combs not guilty, however, several jurors noted they don't necessarily agree with Combs' actions that April night and think there's room in Michigan law for tighter regulation of firearms.
"As a people, we preserve our freedom by restraining our government. But we preserve civilization by restraining ourselves," said Bloomfield Township real estate lawyer and juror Ed Kickham. "There's some gaps in our law (regarding identifying yourself to police officers)."
Still, Kickham noted even if he disagrees with Combs' actions, no law was broken and that was what the jury had to decide in this case.
"I think the police officers behaved in a perfectly reasonable manner," he said. "But I don't think it rose to a breach of the peace."
Combs said while he's been cleared of criminal charges, there are no plans for a civil suit at this time but the idea is still on the table.
That's what juries are for. Not just to sit back and let the judge and lawyers tell them how to decide.
You vill show your papers NOW!
If he needs a picture ID to exercise his 2nd amendment rights why is it a problem to ask for a picture ID for him to vote?
The Constitutional purpose of juries as the Founders intended.
I am reminded of G. Gordon Liddy’s book, “When I was a kid this was a free country.”
I recall in the late 1950’s a friend and I frequently walked downtown to the hardware store across the street from the county courthouse, carrying our .22 rifles. We carried them into the store to purchase a box of 50 rounds each (for less than $1 each). Occasionally we would encounter the sheriff sitting in his patrol car and pass the time before continuing on our outing.
The only comment I recall ever hearing related to the face that we were teenagers carrying rifles down the sidewalk of the town square of the county seat was the sheriff once asking, “Where are you boys going hunting today?” We told him and he responded, “Have fun and be careful.”
A side point: Not all, but most boys and some girls had their own guns, usually a single-shot .22. In over 20 years that I am familiar with the only gun-related accident in the county was one farmer (an adult) shot himself in the leg getting his rifle out of his pickup truck. I heard him later comment that the ribbing by his friends was worse than the gunshot injury.
Actually it was the Po-Po causing the disturbance. Now sue the lot of them for Deprivation of Civil Rights under 42USC1983. Leave those cops dead broke and their families in the streets.
My father remembers a time when teenagers could ride on the New York City subway with .22 rifles so they could connect with the LIRR to go out and hunt in Suffolk County.
Back in the 70’s my high school had a rifle club. They would go shooting out back after school and it would not be unusual to see kids bring their rifles to school.
The high school across town had a range in the basement.
We also had a smoking lounge for students.
Well, that would work AGAINST Democrat National Socialists, so that would be bad, in their "minds".
The fact that this was prosecuted is a travesty.