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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Horror Story

K. McCaffrey --- The news is always filled with stories about folks who fall victim to unfortunate circumstances. Brian Aitken, though, had months of hell from the hands of an insipid New Jersey judge:

Brian had already left to drop off his things (which included the three guns), but they called him and told him to come back home to talk. ... [Police] questioned him and without receiving consent, searched his car, where they found the guns. Police arrested Aitken for illegally transporting the firearms within New Jersey, a state with some of the strictest gun laws in the country.

James Morley, the county judge who heard the case, refused to consider Aitken’s argument that he was transporting the guns to his new residence, which would have been enough to find him innocent. After a jury convicted him, Judge Morely sentenced him to seven years on August 27, 2010.

A convicted felon, he spent two weeks in the county jail, another week in the state’s Central Reception and Assignment Facility (CRAF), and then was finally transferred to a prison built especially for sex offenders where he spent another three months.

And, of course, like all happy stories in New Jersey, Governor Christie saved the day:

While in prison, Aitken’s story of injustice spread across the Internet, aided by friends, social media sites, and reports from New Jersey newspapers and blogs. His girlfriend launched a “Free Brian Aitken” Facebook page that reached more than 15,000 supporters and received millions of hits. A link on the page directed supporters to his address in prison, and they sent him hundreds of letters and scores of books.

Brian read voraciously, and finished more than 30 books in jail. It was there that he read Ron Paul’s “The Revolution: A Manifesto,” “The Law” by French classical liberal Frederic Bastiat and Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72.”

With the public behind him, Aitken’s attorneys petitioned the governor to overrule the judge’s decision.

After nearly four months behind bars, Christie commuted his sentence to “time served” on Dec. 20th, 2010, and Aitken was finally released.

I was really glad to read that the article had a happy ending. Though I wonder what Aitken's fate would have been without access to cheap marketing (facebook) and an incredibly sympathetic story that is easy to understand. It saddens me to think how many people have been needlessly imprisoned over such stupid things.
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  1. Isn't Brian still a felon? Just because his sentence was commuted I don't think that means his conviction was removed. If Brian is a felon then he will not be able to buy guns. At least that's my understanding. Also, what about the four months he didn't work? Shouldn't he be compensated for that time? How can he get his felony conviction removed?

  2. NRA was in on this too via their civil defense fund.

  3. Commuted is not a happy ending. A Pardon is a happy ending.

    You need to think a bit more deeply before you write these things. This totally innocent man is still a felon.

    Winning The Future? (WTF)

  4. Concur with the above posters. A commutation does not resolve this travesty. It also causes me to think long and hard on my prior support for Christie as a presidential nominee.

  5. Wait a minute! Doesn't an admission of guilt preclude a Governor's pardon?

    Aitken did nothing wrong. He must fight in the courts to recover his good name. That's all he's left to do.

    Besides, didn't Christie refuse to re-appoint the SOB judge who got him in the slammer?

  6. Too bad this will still be on his record though. Christie should have done the right thing and expunged his record. I have no doubts this was an activist judge with some ax to grind and found the perfect situtation which to make a statement.

  7. I agree that it would have been the optimal outcome and, sure, if I was in charge that would have happened, but I'm fairly certain that Corzine wouldn't have done much about it and I'm glad Aitken isn't in prison. Many other people are for probably equally silly things.

  8. As I understand it, Aitken requested the commutation rather than a pardon because it allows him to continue fighting the conviction.