Railroading of Walter Reddy: Patriot's Legally Owned Guns Seized

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Walter Reddy is the patriotic organizer of the Committees of Safety, arguably a founding father of the modern Tea Party movement, and his right to keep and bear arms has been taken from him. It doesn’t matter that he has committed no crimes, and has not been charged with a crime. A Connecticut judge told him at a hearing that Reddy had no right to an attorney and that "I’m ready to rule" to take Reddy’s guns away before the patriotic organizer had the chance to say one word in his defense.

Ready had organized the first modern-day Tea Party rally, a December 2007 rally at Boston’s Faneuil Hall that featured the then-little-known Rand Paul as a keynote speaker. Rand Paul, an eye surgeon and son of Rep. Ron Paul, has since gone on to become the most prominent U.S. senator associated with the Tea Party movement.

The following facts are undisputed by both sides of the legal dispute over possession of guns:

  • Police in Weston, Connecticut, based in part upon an unsubstantiated FBI statement that Reddy was a "person of interest" in a domestic terrorism investigation, executed a search and seizure warrant at Reddy’s home on February 14 that involved the local SWAT team. The police took a pump-action shotgun and an antique revolver from Reddy.
  • Walter Reddy has no criminal record of any kind.
  • Reddy was never charged with a crime, but his legally held guns were taken from him anyway. He is, however, a widely known constitutional political activist and persistent critic of big government.
  • Reddy repeatedly asked for an opportunity to get a lawyer before a February 25 hearing on possession of his guns, and was denied his request
  • The chief witness brought by the state against Reddy explicitly stated that Reddy had never acted in a threatening or violent way.
  • No other witness even attempted to claim that Reddy was threatening or violent.

"The fact that he wasn’t given the opportunity to get a lawyer [for the hearing] is just wrong," Reddy’s lawyer Joseph Secola told The New American. "It just seems to me that he was not accorded the necessary due process of law. He asked repeatedly for a continuance to get counsel and it was repeatedly denied."

According to the hearing transcript provided by Secola, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Bruce Hudock ruled that, because Connecticut law requires a hearing within 14 days of a seizure of private property, the judge couldn’t delay the hearing long enough for Reddy to hire a lawyer. "Well, as I read – before I turn to the State – as I read the statute, in particular, 29-38c(d), it says no later than fourteen days after the execution of the warrant, the Court shall hold a hearing to determine whether the seized firearms should be returned to the person, or held for the State for a period not longer than one year. So I see a ‘shall,’ and shall means that there is no – shall means shall. That means we’ve got to have a hearing in my opinion."

But Secola stressed that the purpose of the 14-day limit in the Connecticut law is to protect the property owner, not the state. "When he says that the law forces me to deny the continuance, that’s absurd…. The law can be waived by the party getting the benefit of the legal right," Secola told The New American, who termed the judge’s ruling "legal error" subject to appeal. In Reddy’s case, the lawyer he had initially selected to represent him had a court date for another client that day and couldn’t appear at the scheduled hearing on such short notice. "This guy was just railroaded throughout the entire process," Secola concluded.

How badly was Reddy railroaded? Not only was he denied an opportunity to get a lawyer, Judge Hudock told Reddy at the beginning of the case: "Unless you have anything further to say, I’m ready to rule." The unusual part of that statement was that the judge said this before Reddy had the chance to give any testimony, call any witnesses, or present any evidence. How could the judge have possibly been "ready to rule" fairly without hearing both sides first?

Reddy did have something to say in his own defense. But not surprisingly, the judge ruled: "The court finds that … you are a risk of imminent personal injury to other individuals." He ordered Reddy’s guns be kept from him for a full year.

How the court came to such a conclusion is interesting, and possibly frightening for conservative political activists in present-day America.

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April 23, 2010