Sunday, October 17, 2010

An unfortunate incident

Back in June, in the town of Bridgewater, NJ, an elderly woman fired what her lawyer described as a “warning shot” at a neighbor near her driveway operating a front-load loader. She faced charges of possession  of a firearm for an unlawful purpose, unlawful possession of a firearm, and aggravated assault, to which she recently pled “not guilty”. There appears to have been some history between the two neighbors. This article has a little more on the incident, and ends with Valachovic’s claiming that she shot at the tires of the front-end loader

I wish I had more information, but the account as reported by the investigator (first article) suggest poor judgment on Ms Valachovic’s part, starting with leaving the house with a gun, without calling the police first. Without having been there, I can’t say how appropriate it was to leave the house at all; but it’s usually not a wise idea either.

The warning shot was likely a mistake (and admitting to it certainly was – her lawyer is an idiot for doing so), but again, I wasn’t there. Legally, of course, discharge of the firearm, no matter the direction, is use of deadly force, and needs to be justified as such. If it wasn’t a warning shot, but rather an attempt to disable the front-end loader, that puts a slightly different light on things, but makes her lawyer even more of an idiot for claiming it was a warning shot.

Also, NJ distinguishes between unlawful possession and possession for an unlawful purpose? That’s a pretty fine distinction. The unlawful possession happened if she stepped off her property (there’s only a half-dozen or so ways to legally possess a handgun in NJ), and the possession for an unlawful purpose would likely be due to the assault charge. It appears that the unlawful possession charge was dropped, though; probably since they couldn’t determine that she left her property.

Messy case all around. One other thing I’ll be interested to see is if she ends up convicted, and what the sentence will be. Also, note that the possession charge is much more serious (second-degree crime) than the assault charge (fourth degree); and can be punished much more harshly (5-10 years vs. 18 months).

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