“Heavyweight hip-hop producer Bryan Leach [above] — credited with discovering Lil Jon and the Ying Yang Twins — pleaded guilty in Manhattan yesterday to attempted gun possession in a deal that will put him in prison for two years,” nypost.com reports. “Leach had been busted in 2010 after getting pulled over while driving his 2006 Bentley Continental erratically on West 72nd Street, cops said. Inside the car’s console, cops found a Kel-Tec handgun loaded with hollow-point bullets.” Attempted possession? What’s that all about? I Googled a former DA who used to work in Manhattan’s Firearms Trafficking Unit . . .
Peter Tilem set the way back machine for the late 70’s when Ed “Howmeyedoin’?” Koch was Mayor of The City That Never Sleeps. Tilem tells the tale of Koch’s “get tough on guns” stance, which led to a one-year mandatory minimum sentence for possession of a loaded firearm.
Yes, well, MM or not, a judge could still sentence the perp to probation, depending on the circumstances.
Fast forward to today. The Big Apple brain trust has upped the penalty for simple firearms possession to a Second Degree Class C felony. If convicted, it’s a three-and-a-half year minimum mandatory jail sentence, with a 15-year maximum stretch.
Regardless of the circumstances.
I repeat: an offender’s criminal record—or lack thereof—makes no difference. An otherwise law-abiding citizen who gets caught packing heat to protect himself against potentially violent renters faces the same penalty as a gang banger with a record as long as Anna Mouglalis‘ legs.
What part of mandatory doesn’t the defendant understand?
That said, a prosecutor who wants to play let’s make a deal, as in Mr. Leach’s case, can walk down the gun charge to attempted criminal firearms possession. The Class D felony carries a mandatory minimum of two years in prison. Mandatory. Minimum. Period.
“The judges hands are tied,” Tilem says. “That means prosecutors are determining the sentence. They’re driving the bus.”
A not inconsequential point. Not to mix metaphors (much), in the recent high profile cases where ignorant out-of-staters got caught with a gun, the DA’s office held all the cards. If the DA had wanted to bust their proverbial balls, the judge wouldn’t have had a choice. They would have gone to prison.
Luckily, the gun owners in question were “allowed” to plead to a misdemeanor. Tilem’s dealt with several similar cases where gun owners got nailed at the airport. “The DA’s office in Queens has been very understanding,” he says.
How much impact has all this had on New York City or New York’s gun crime? “None,” Tilem says. “None whatsoever.”