I figured they’d at least wrist-slap him with 20 hours of community service or whatever, punctuated by a formal apology on MTP about the dangers of waving around an empty magazine. But that’s okay. This was a no-lose situation for gun-rights advocates. If they chose to prosecute him, it’d be a case study in how silly strict-liability gun laws can be. If they declined, it’d be a case study in how the elite get special treatment. Essentially, the D.A. had to decide whether he wanted to undermine public faith that his office treats perps equally or undermine public faith in those precious, precious gun laws. Not surprising, really, that he’d protect gun control at the expense of his own integrity. This is Washington, after all, and Gregory’s puppet show was in service to the gun-control agenda. Did you really think they’d lock him up for grilling Wayne LaPierre a bit too theatrically?
Emily Miller has the text of the D.A.’s letter. Key bit:
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.
Influencing our judgment in this case, among other things, is our recognition that the intent of the temporary possession and short display of the magazine was to promote the First Amendment purpose of informing an ongoing public debate about firearms policy in the United States, especially while this subject was foremost in the minds of the public following the previously mentioned events in Connecticut and the President’s speech to the nation about them. There were, however, other legal means available to demonstrate the point and to pursue this line of questioning with the guest that were suggested to NBC and that could have and should have been pursued…
On the other hand, 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. While you argue that some NBC employees subjectively felt uncertain as to whether its planned actions were lawful or not, we do not believe such uncertainty was justified and we note that NBC has now acknowledged that its interpretation of the information it received was incorrect.
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.
Read that third paragraph again. Rarely will you see a prosecutor accuse a suspect of clearly and knowingly breaking an “important law” and then decide he deserves no punishment whatsoever, not even spending a weekend afternoon raking leaves in a city park. But then D.C. law enforcement has better things to do, like putting veterans on trial for transporting their guns through the city. Exit question: What other contraband are journalists allowed to possess under the journalism exception to the D.C. penal code? Does it matter if their political agenda lines up with Washington’s or is this a nonpartisan thing? We’ll know when Chris Wallace dumps a brick of coke onto his desk on “Fox News Sunday.”
Update: Turns out Gregory and his wife are social acquaintances of the D.C. AG. How ’bout that.