Update: Tennessee Woman Won’t Go To Jail For Bringing a Gun to the 9/11 Memorial

This past Monday (March 19), Meredith Graves — who on December 22 attempted to check her gun before entering the 9/11 Memorial — pleaded guilty to criminal possession of a weapon, a misdemeanor, and will serve no jail time. A felony conviction would have meant a minimum of 3½ years and a maximum of 15.

On Tuesday, Indiana’s Ryan Jerome — arrested in September after attempting to check his gun before entering the Empire State Building — also accepted a misdemeanor gun possession charge calling for no jail time. Jerome actually had thought to check about reciprocity laws, but claims he misread “New York carry permits are honored in Indiana” as “Indiana carry permits are honored in New York.”

(Still no update on Ohio gun owner Fred Vankirk’s similar New York City gun case

January 12, 2012:

According to the New York Post, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is discussing a deal with Meredith Graves’s attorney which would allow her to avoid prison time entirely.

Update: Tennessee threatens to retaliate

January 4, 2012: This wasn’t one of New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s finer moments: He told reporters last week that even if Meredith Graves hadn’t been “caught” with a gun, she “would have been arrested for the cocaine that was in her pocket.”

Even setting aside the logical flaw — nobody would have been searching Graves’s pocket if she hadn’t been arrested — Bloomberg might have waited until he knew the white powder in the two small bags in Graves’s pocket actually contained cocaine — rather than, as she’d insisted, and as toxicology reports confirmed Tuesday, crushed aspirin for her migraines.

January 10, 2012: The Second Amendment Foundation reacts to Bloomberg’s statement

The gun possession charge remains in place, of course, and Graves is due back in court on March 19.

Original Article: Meredith Graves, a 39-year-old Tennessee woman, has been arrested for trying to carry a gun into New York City’s 9/11 Memorial. Except that she did nothing of the sort.

Though you wouldn’t know it from the local headlines, the opposite is closer to the truth: Graves has a Tennessee carry permit and drove up to New York with a loaded .32 caliber pistol in her purse, not realizing that New York authorities would have a problem with this.

Let’s stipulate here that this was a fairly stupid assumption — though it should also be the obligation of any state issuing carry permits to make sure that applicants understand that the permits are only valid within the state.

She visited the site on December 22. She got to the memorial’s entrance, noticed the “No Guns Allowed” sign, and casually asked a guard where she could check her gun.

The guard, assuming by her demeanor that she was a law enforcement officer (thereby authorized to carry firearms), directed her to a special entrance for law enforcement officers. When she explained at that entrance that she was not a law enforcement officer, she was handcuffed, arrested, and charged with felony gun possession — and the Manhattan DA’s Office intends to prosecute her on this charge, which carries a minimum sentence of 3½ years (she’s been freed on $2000 bond, and is due back in court on March 19).

Now, I’ve been pretty clear about my opposition to the Interstate Handgun Carry Reciprocity Bill — which perhaps Graves thought was already in effect — and she did break the law, of which ignorance is not an excuse. But… there was no criminal intent here, and the draconian prosecution seems to be based in part on the perception that Graves was trying to bring the gun into the memorial, which the DA’s Office knows not to be true.

Graves should be fined. Her gun should be confiscated (well, they certainly can’t give it back to her and let her carry it out of Manhattan now, can they?). Put her on probation, make her film a public service announcement for Tennessee television warning her fellow Tennesseeans not to carry their guns out of state… but prosecuting her for a felony, and seeking a multi-year prison term? Save that for the criminals.

That’s my opinion, anyway. And yours?

This article, and all articles on this site, are
© 2012 by Bill Bickel unless otherwise noted.

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32 Responses to Update: Tennessee Woman Won’t Go To Jail For Bringing a Gun to the 9/11 Memorial

  1. James Pollock James Pollock says:

    “Intent” is a tricky concept. In this case, there was, in fact, intent. The gun did not climb into her purse by itself, and the purse did not transport itself to Manhattan. The question isn’t did you intend to break the law, it’s did you intend to do the action that was prohibited.

    That said, I’d be highly surprised if these charges weren’t settled with a plea bargain to a misdemeanor that included a fine and forfeiture of the weapon.

    There is a hidden aspect here you either didn’t see or didn’t mention. If she is convicted of a felony, she loses her carry permit back home, too.

  2. Lost in A**2 Lost in A**2 says:

    But the prohibited action was carrying the gun into the Memorial, which she was expressly trying NOT to do.

    Why didn’t she just go back to the car? Probably because checking her gun seemed reasonable to her.

    • James Pollock James Pollock says:

      The prohibited action WASN’T carrying a weapon into the memorial (which, as you point out, she didn’t do), it was some combination of carrying an unregistered weapon into New York, plus concealing it without a (NY) carry permit.

    • DPWally DPWally says:

      Most likely her car was nowhere near the memorial. The memorial doesn’t have a parking lot and the neighborhood around it isn’t known for its plentiful street parking.

      Even someone who’s from Tennessee and apparently clueless probably figured that out and garaged the car near her hotel. If she tried to drive to the memorial, she probably parked some distance away.

  3. Mark in Boston Mark in Boston says:

    Sometimes you have to keep your mouth shut and NOT do the right thing. Penn Gillette was talking about his street performer days in an interview. He was very good at getting the spectators to give him money — making about $3,000 a week. He went to a tax accountant, naturally wanting to pay his income taxes as a good citizen. The accountant told him NOT to claim the income — it would only get him arrested and thrown in jail for sure, because the IRS just believes THAT much undocumented income HAS to be from selling drugs.
    Unfortunately I don’t know what I’d do in THIS case (if I had really forgotten to leave the gun at home). Walking in with a gun — there’s got to be a metal detector someplace that would find it. Reading the sign and turning around and walking away — the cops just KNOW that if you’re about to go in, see a sign that says “No Guns” and then don’t go in, you’re carrying.

    • Bill Bickel Bill Bickel says:

      That story sounds a bit fishy — first because the IRS doesn’t share that information with other agencies: their stand is “declare it as income and pay taxes on it.” And second, the IRS has no idea whether you’ve received the money in cash.

      YOUR BANK might rat you out of you make frequent large cash deposits (certainly post-9/11, I’m not sure about when Gillette was starting out) — but even then, he’d only have been required to explain himself

      And I can’t imagine a CPA advising a client to lie about his income in this sort of case — though telling Gillette to declare, say, $1000 a week rather than $3000? Definitely.

      Keep in mind that most of what Penn Gillette says is BS.

      • James Pollock James Pollock says:

        Actually, the IRS does know if you’ve received your income in cash, because nobody’s claimed to be paying it to you as wages. Street performing may well be one of the only remaining lawful ways to make a cash income.

        (Sure, most of what Mr. Gillette says is B.S…. but he’s entirely honest about THAT…)

        • billbickel Bill Bickel says:

          Well true, they can extrapolate that information, if they have a reason to look for it in the first place and it’s important enough. But in this case they wouldn’t have and it wouldn’t have been. And mostly, it’s just not their job.

          I mean, the IRS would have known that Al Capone’s income came from bootlegging and other forms of organized crime, and they’d have been fine with it as long as they got their piece of the action.

          • Powers Powers says:

            Are you sure the IRS doesn’t share info with other agencies? I do volunteer tax prep and I’ve always been told that you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t; if you declare the income they use it as proof that you sold something illegal, but if you don’t declare the income, they get you on tax evasion.

          • Winter Wallaby Winter Wallaby says:

            I’m curious about this too, Bill. Where did you hear this? It sounds reasonable as a possible description of current-day IRS practice, but I’d be interested in confirming this.

            I’m skeptical that this is a correct description of the IRS in Capone’s time, though. I had thought that the IRS, at least at that time, routinely made information about possible illegal activities accessible to law enforcement agencies, and that that was part of the reason that the Supreme Court had struck down some gambling taxes as violating the right of gamblers to not incriminate themselves. It’s possible that IRS practice has changed somewhat now, to deal with the self-incimination problem.

  4. I suspect she may even have brought the gun with her because she had family and friends who trotted out the old “It’s a big city! It’s dangerous!” thing, when I wouldn’t be surprised if Memphis and Nashville are more dangerous than NYC*.

    Of course, it’s also probable that if Nashville and Memphis are kinda dangerous, that everyone in her life thinks “larger city=more dangerous,” when it’s not necessarily so.

    *Based on the overall tendency that I’ve seen in things I’ve read of southern cities to be higher-crime (particularly violent crime) than northern ones.

    • billbickel Bill Bickel says:

      pepperjackcandy, your comment reminds me of an incident about twenty-five years back when my wife traveled to Atlanta for some business meeting, and she was chatting with two other women outside of the convention center and when they heard she lived in the Bronx, they commented on how terrible it must be to live someplace with so much crime. My wife said she’d never had a problem.

      You can guess where this is going, right? A few minutes later, two guys ran by and snatched their pocketbooks.

  5. Jake Jake says:

    Three problems:

    1) You’re basically saying ignorance of the law should be a defense. Attacking whether this should be a law is fair, but once it is lawfully enacted, everybody has to follow it, regardless of what state/country they’re from.

    2) You want her to be fined, and you want her gun confiscated…why? Ether you think she broke a law and should be punished or not; you can’t have it halfway. Except…

    3) The most infuriating thing legal reporters/bloggers do is report the maximum possible sentence, as if there’s any possibility this woman will ever even see the inside of a jail cell, let alone 3.5 years worth. So when you say fine + confiscate gun should be her punishment, I’d bet anything that’s what will happen.

    • billbickel Bill Bickel says:

      Jake, I’m sure I’ve written a great number of things you can disagree with; you don’t need to complain about things I never said.

      Not only did I never say that ignorance of the law is a defense, but I explicitly said the opposite. I did suggest that in some cases it might be a mitigating factor, which covers our third gripe.

      And as to your blanket comment about how all reporters and bloggers stress unrealistic maximum sentences… I said that the charge against Graves, the charge the DA’s office said they intended to prosecute, carries a minimum sentence of 3½ years.

      If you have any comments about the article I actually wrote, feel free to share them.

  6. Carl Carl says:

    Charges have been dropped. The City is well aware that they couldn’t win against such a sympathetic defendant and they don’t want a court ruling that their handgun laws are unconstitutional. Which they are.

  7. jay jay says:

    Many states have recipiocity. You can carry through most of the south and midwest with a permit from your state.

    to pepperjack- the last group you (and obama)can generalize about and still get a laugh,
    those silly old southerners and their god and guns.

  8. Andrea Andrea says:

    I was recently in Arizona, a concealed- and open-gun-carry state. Went to the Yuma Library; sign on front door says NO GUNS IN LIBRARY; PUT IN LOCKER . . . unfortunately, both the lockers and the desk to get the keys were INSIDE THE LIBRARY.

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