Silver Creek man charged with SAFE Act violations to head back to court

SILVER CREEK Further court proceedings in the case against Benjamin M. Wassell for violations under the NYS SAFE Act will continue April 17.

In March, Wassell, 32, of Silver Creek, was the first person in New York state to be charged under the new gun control law.

He was arraigned and released to appear in Hanover Town Court on March 20.

The courtroom was crowded with supporters for Wassell, a local family man and Iraq War veteran. Wassell has a wife and two young children. He works for a utility company and collects disability for the traumatic brain injury he sustained on his second tour in Iraq.

In 2006, Wassell suffered a traumatic brain injury from an improvised explosive device, IED, that destroyed his vehicle while serving with the 1st Marine Logistics Group.

Despite his injury, Wassell was able to lead other wounded marines through a minefield to safety.

Wassell allegedly sold a DelTon AR15 rifle, 299 rounds of ammunition and six large capacity clips to an undercover officer on Jan. 24 for $1,900. The gun was illegal due to a pistol grip, telescoping butt and bayonet mount.

On Feb. 24, Wassell allegedly sold an Armalite AR10 Magnum semi-automatic rifle, which had a pistol grip, along with 21 rounds of ammunition to the undercover officer for $2,600. Wassell allegedly went through with the sale despite being told the undercover officer had a felony domestic violence conviction. Felons are not permitted to own guns.

It is also alleged Wassell sold or was attempting to sell several other guns illegally.

Wassell allegedly converted the guns to help support his family. However, authorities say he took advantage of the demand created by the new law by adding illegal features to increase the value.

Wassell is charged with three felonies and a misdemeanor which could send him to prison for up to seven years.

“By selling these illegal firearms, Mr. Wassell’s actions had potentially dangerous consequences for New Yorkers,” State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said before Wassell’s appearance in court. “We have seen far too much gun violence in our state in recent months, and the sale of illegal semi-automatic weapons will not go unpunished.”

The New York State Attorney General’s Office is handling the prosecution with Assistant Attorney General Paul McCarthy on the case.

Wassell is represented by attorneys Paul J. Cambria Jr. and Michael S. Deal of the Buffalo law firm Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria LLP.

Deal entered a not guilty plea on behalf of Wassell. Hanover Judge Walter Klyczek adjourned the case until April 17 at 2 p.m.

Wassell’s family is fundraising for his legal defense on the website gofundme.com/2clmcw.

“Any donations collected through this fund will be used to pay for my husband to have the best defense attorneys possible to fight for his rights, mine, and yours,” Wassell’s wife, Jacqueline (Hurley) Wassell, said on the website.

The goal is stated as $100,000 for Wassell’s legal defense and as of Thursday more than $5,000 had been donated.

“My husband is being made an example in this prosecution. Ben has no criminal history. In time, his true character will become evident,” Mrs. Wassell said.

The New York State Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act was enacted on Jan. 15, nine days before Wassell sold his first rifle to an undercover officer.

The law enforces a stricter definition of an assault rifle to include any semi-automatic pistol, rifle or shot gun with a detachable magazine and one military-style feature such as the pistol grip, telescoping butt or bayonet mount Wassell allegedly added to the rifles he sold.

The law also limits the size of magazine, and has provisions for background checks and large-scale purchases of ammunition and guns.

For more information on NYS SAFE Act go to www.governor.ny.gov/nysafeact/gun-reform.

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