FORT LEE, N.J. -- A Marine MP whose loaded service weapon was pointed at police by another man during a melee outside a Fort Lee nightclub didn’t have the right to carry the gun across state lines at the time, a New Jersey appeals court ruled Friday.
Federal law in 2011 didn’t cover Hisashi Pompey, the appellate panel said in upholding a five-year state prison sentence – three of which he had to complete before being eligible for parole.
Pompey was scheduled for release in mid-April.
In his appeal, Pompey blamed his lawyer for failing to raise the Federal Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act of 2004 (LEOSA) in his defense.
However, the appellate panel judges said the law – which allows certain government personnel to carry concealed weapons across state lines – didn’t extend to military police when the incident occurred.
The list of "qualified law enforcement officers" at the time included those authorized to “engage in or supervise the prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of, or the incarceration of any person for, any violation of law, and has statutory powers of arrest,” the judges wrote in their decision.
MPs didn’t qualify because they had powers of apprehension and not arrest, they explained.
Congress amended the law in January 2013, adding military police to the class of qualified law enforcement officers permitted to carry firearms across state lines, the panel noted.
Pompey had come home for the Christmas holiday on impulse.
An active-duty sergeant and MP in the Marine Corps, he had a permit to carry a weapon in Virginia, where he was stationed, but not in New Jersey, the panel noted.
When he couldn’t find his girlfriend or kids around, Pompey went to the Tribecca nightclub on Lemoine Avenue with a school friend.
At some point, his friend got involved with an unruly crowd, Pompey testified during his May 2013 trial.
The Marine said he went to his car, parked in a lot behind the Port Authority administration building near the George Washington Bridge and put on his holster.
Then he took his gun out of a bag and loaded it.
Moments later, his friend grabbed the weapon — at which point several Port Authority officers had arrived.
The situation quickly got chaotic.
A Port Authority officer told jurors that he saw Pompey’s friend, Isaiah Wilson, throw the .40-cal. Glock handgun under a truck after first disobeying orders to hand it over, dropping a bullet into the chamber and then trying to run away.
Five officers grabbed Wilson moment later.
Standing down was the appropriate response given the number of uniformed officers present, Pompey said during the trial, so he didn’t try to tackle his friend.
From there, he said, he simply waited until the man had been subdued and handcuffed to approach the police and take responsibility for the weapon.
“I thought military weapons were covered in all states,” he said. “If I had known they weren’t recognized in New Jersey, I never would have brought it here.”
Wilson pleaded guilty in connection with the case and also was sentenced to five years in prison.
Defense attorney John Carbone argued that Pompey made a mistake in judgment, didn’t act deliberately and was in-between military destinations.
However, Superior Court Judge Edward A. Jerejian said he had no choice under the state law known as the Graves Act.
“Other states are different, but here we have mandatory sentences,” Jerejian told him. “This was basically a very unfortunate situation.
“Everyone recognizes what you did for your country,” said the judge. “You served two tours, were wounded.
“But the shoe didn’t fit. You weren’t going from one base to another. You were not a federal officer,” he said. It really wasn’t that.
“It was a Marine on leave who went out for the night, and there was a weapon with no permit — it’s as simple as that.
“If the gun was in a lock box, it would have been more of a technical problem,” the judge added. “But it ended up being waved around with police officers present, and thank God no one was injured.”