To the surprise of absolutely no one, the District of Columbia’s Attorney General won’t press criminal charges against NBC Meet the Press host David Gregory for waiving around a high-capacity ammunition clip on national television.
AG Irvin B. Nathan made the announcement in a three-page letter to NBC’s attorney today. Nathan admitted, however, that he was declining to prosecute David Gregory “despite the clarity of the violation of this important law.” The Washington Metropolitan Police had investigated the incident and had turned it over to Nathan’s office.
As Politico explains, “According to D.C. law, it is illegal to possess a large capacity magazine — defined as holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition — even if it is empty. The misdemeanor is punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and/or up to one year in in prison.” Over 100 people this year were arrested in D.C. on charges that included the possession of high capacity magazines. The relevant is D.C. Code Section 7-2506.01(b).
The AG apparently bought NBC’s argument that Gregory brandished the clip as a way to inform the public about First Amendment issues. The AG added that other legal means should have been used, however.
Nathan’s letter stated in part:
“Having carefully reviewed all of the facts and circumstances of this matter, as it does in everycase involving firearms-related offenses or any other potential violation of D.C. law within our criminal jurisdiction, OAG has determined to exercise its prosecutorial discretion to decline to bring criminal charges against Mr. Gregory, who has no criminal record, or any other NBC employee based on the events associated with the December 23,2012 broadcast. OAG has made this determination, despite the clarity of the violation of this important law, because under all of the circumstances here a prosecution would not promote public safety in the District of Columbia nor serve the best interests of the people of the District to whom this office owes its trust.
… no specific intent is required for this violation, and ignorance of the law or even confusion about it is no defense. We therefore did not rely in making our judgment on the feeble and unsatisfactory efforts that NBC made to determine whether or not it was lawful to possess, display and broadcast this large capacity magazine as a means of fostering the public policy debate. Although there appears to have been some misinformation provided initially, NBC was clearly and timely advised by an MPD employee that its plans to exhibit on the broadcast a high capacity-magazine would violate D.C. law, and there was no contrary advice from any federal official.
“NBC should be made aware that OAG’s decision not to press charges in this matter was a very close decision and not one to which it came lightly or easily. Accordingly, NBC and its employees should take meticulous care in the future to ensure that it is in full compliance with D.C. law whether its actions involve firearms or any other potential violation. Repetition by NBC or any employee of any similar or other firearms violation will be prosecuted to the full extent supported by the facts and the law.”
According to Emily Miller of the Washington Times, the outcome in the David Gregory case indicates that justice is not blind when you are a Beltway insider with connections: “It is shameful that the politicians running the nation’s capital have sent the clear message that there are two systems of justice in the city: one for the rich and powerful and one for everyone else.”
Law Professor William Jacobson of the Legal Insurrection blog suggests that Nathan may have had a conflict of interest in the case because he might be personal friends with David Gregory’s wife, Beth Wilkinson, a prominent Washington attorney.
Despite his outspoken support of gun control, Gregory has yet to make a public comment about how he likely violated gun regulations in the nation’s capital.
Given the totality of the circumstances, do you find the resolution of the David Gregory case to be satisfactory?