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Everyone screws up once in a while, right? It’s just that some boo-boos are bigger (and harder to heal) than others. “Matt Sinclair admitted to a Champaign County jury Tuesday that pulling a gun on a friend on an interstate highway as a prank was ‘absolutely’ stupid. … ‘My intent was to joke around with a guy I shared my office with 15 hours a day. Stupidity doesn’t cut it,’ he said in answer to questions from his attorney, Jim Martinkus of Champaign.” What ballistic boner did Sinclair pull? . . .

Sinclair was the assistant director for player personnel relations for the University of Illinois football team that day. … He and other staff members, “euphoric” over a team win over Purdue University, were headed back to the UI campus from West Lafayette, Ind., about 3:45 p.m.

Sinclair was driving his pickup truck west in eastern Champaign County with two passengers while another football staffer, Justin Hood, was in a state sport utility vehicle with Sinclair’s office mate, Marcus Berry. The SUV was very near Sinclair’s pickup.

Given the Fighting Illini’s record of sustained futility, it’s probably understandable that Sinclair and his buds would be thrilled about actually beating their Big 10 rivals, the Boilermakers.

Sinclair said he reached into his center console to pull out a phone charger for his front-seat passenger and fellow staffer, Mike Bellamy. Sinclair’s unloaded .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun, which he said he carried for protection, was in the console. He put it on his lap to get to the charger.

According to Sinclair, Bellamy made a comment along the lines of: “How funny would it be for you to stick that out the window to scare Marcus?”

In the lexicon of stupid human gun tricks, “How funny would it be…” is probably right behind “Hey, watch this!” as a prelude to acts gun owners and Darwin Award nominees later come to regret. It’s alleged that Sinclair then pointed his mohaska at his friends driving in the SUV next to them. Just for giggles, of course. Only one problem: Sinclair and his friends weren’t the only people driving on I-74 that day.

Marin Lowder, 25, testified she was driving her cousin and mother west on I-74, headed for Waverly, Ill., when her mom, Lou Ann Lowder, 57, commented from the back seat that she should slow down because the two drivers looked like they were “going to do something odd.”

Within seconds, Marin Lowder saw the pickup driver extend his left hand and point the handgun at the SUV.

“I immediately thought ‘I’m going to witness a shooting’ and I slammed on my brakes,” she said.

Sinclair denies pointing his heater at anyone.

“I literally stuck it out a couple of seconds just to show them. I didn’t point it at anybody. I would never do that,” said the former UI and NFL linebacker who said he was raised around guns and understands gun safety. “It was just long enough to say ‘ha, ha.’ That was it.”

That was apparently enough. He’s currently on trial, charged with two felonies and a misdemeanor. We don’t know how that will turn out, but we do know that he’s richly deserving of our Irresponsible Gun Owner of the Day distinction. The only question is, if things don’t go his way, does the Champaign County jail have an orange jump suit big enough for the former NFLer?

29 Responses to Irresponsible Gun Owner of the Day: Matt Sinclair

    • “unloaded .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun, which he said he carried for protection, was in the console”

      Unloaded

      Carried for protection

      In the console

      This dude sounds dumb long before this incident

    • He did have a FOID, but he did not have an Illinois carry license.

      This incident occurred in 2013, after Illinois had passed their carry permit law, but before they had the system in place to process permit applications.

      This defendant argued that the delay between passing of the law and issuing of permits was unconstitutional, and that these charges should be dismissed because he would have had his license had the state acted promptly.

      At least two courts, federal and state, have ruled “Nice try, but no.” on that point, plus he still has other charges a permit wouldn’t affect, anyway.

  1. “How funny would it be…” is probably right behind “Hey, watch this!”

    …and just before ‘Hey, I bet I can out-draw you!’.

    • No one was shot and there was no wreck. That’s why he’s not chargedvwith shooting anyone or causing a wreck. He is charged, however, with unlawful use of a firearm.

  2. what ever this flash garbage is that’s taking over my web browser when I come to your site has reached the end of my patience. either do something about it or I am out of here.

  3. I am wondering about the charges. This is a case of brandishing, pure and simple. Where are the two felonies and misdemeanor coming from?

    • Google is your friend: http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2015-04-28/sinclair-gun-incident-i-74-absolutely-stupid.html

      “Sinclair is charged with two felony counts of aggravated unlawful use of weapons and one of misdemeanor unlawful use of weapons.

      One felony count alleges he had the unloaded gun in his truck with ammunition for it immediately accessible at a time when he wasn’t licensed under the concealed carry law. (He does have a valid firearm owner’s identification card.) The other alleges he displayed the gun to his friends in another vehicle, alarming a woman who was traveling behind him. The misdemeanor unlawful use of weapons count alleges Sinclair possessed metal knuckles.”

      • Except the standard in Illinois is not “immediately accessible” it’s LOADED. Transporting a firearm unloaded with a loaded magazine next to it is not illegal regardless of your CCW license status. This was the point of the entire “fannypack” debacle the year before the CCW law was passed.

        (I’d also like to know how the “alarm” charge is going to stick as there is zero proof of intent to cause alarm to a third person.)

      • Yeah, I’m sorry. This is BS, and I bet nothing comes of it. His friends weren’t bothered, there went “brandishing”, his point on the delay of the state after being smacked by SCOTUS has merit, he caused some busybody to wet her panties, make him pay for the laundry. IL has figured out that all those fancy laws were unconstitutional, they will eventually drop the charges.

  4. “The only question is, if things don’t go his way, does the Champaign County jail have an orange jump suit big enough for the former NFLer?”

    Maybe they still have the one he wore while getting convicted for battery back in 2004?

    I wonder how much this good time, fun gun guy gets away with when there are no witnesses around.

  5. Yeah, this happened in my hometown. Just as Concealed Carry was getting implemented.

    For the rest of America’s benefit: In IL, if you don’t have a CCW license, you can transport an unloaded firearm in a case if you have a FOID card. A console, thanks to a IL Supreme Court case (Diggins) counts as a case.

    That’s why it was “unloaded” in his console for his “protection”. Yeah, I know. Barney Fife minus the bullet.

    Yes, the FOID Act sucks. However, we don’t have the votes to repeal it just yet, but trust me, we’re working to change that, in addition to fixing other gun-related issues. But I digress…

    This douchebag thought it would be cute to point his Glock at his buddies. No, I don’t know if he was drunk, drunker or high. I do know he was criminally stupid.

    With help like his, we don’t need the Brady Campaign and Everytown.

    He pissed away an $80k job and a promising future with this stunt. On one hand, I don’t think we should penalize someone for life for stupid, youthful transgressions.

    On the other hand, this wasn’t just stupid… and Champaign County’s rabidly anti-gun State’s Attorney isn’t letting go of this one very easily.

    I can’t believe he took it to jury trial.

    When he gets convicted, Judge Ladd is going to nail his ass to the cross. She’s known as the “Hangin’ Judge” in these parts for her no-nonsense sentencing.

    She’s not afraid to send people upriver for extended terms. Long enough that the Chicago thugs who try to export Chicago “culture” to Champaign are shocked and appalled that they won’t be getting out of prison until they are old. Very old.

    John

  6. I am surprised I had never heard this story before… one of the reasons I keep up with TTAG.

    My surprise is two-fold. First, I am a boilermaker myself. Second, I have familial roots in the University of Illinois football program. My grandfather played for UofI and, last I checked, was still 10th overall for rushing yards in the program’s history.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Karras

  7. “The only question is, if things don’t go his way, does the Champaign County jail have an orange jump suit big enough for the former NFLer?”

    He’s gonna be very popular in jail, and more so in the state penitentiary.

    Just not popular in the way *he* would like…

    That ‘Winning Smile’ will be wiped right off his face…

    *snicker*

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