Jury selected in Wassell trial

MAYVILLE – The jury trial for Benjamin Wassell officially began Monday.

Wassell was indicted on Sept. 11, 2013, by a grand jury on the charges of two counts of third-degree criminal sale of a firearm; third-degree criminal possession of a weapon; and two counts of manufacture, transport, disposition and defacement of weapons and dangerous instruments and appliances.

According to Wassell’s defense attorney Michael Deal, of Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria LLP, jury selection was completed Monday.

“The jury was completely seated,” Deal said, noting that 12 jurors and four alternates were selected.

Deal said the jury is comprised of a mix of men and women.

“I think it is a good and fair jury,” he added.

Preliminary instructions and opening statements will begin today at 9:30 a.m. in Chautauqua County Court in Mayville.

The case is being presided over by the Hon. Michael L. D’Amico of Erie County Court. Chautauqua County Court judges Hon. John Ward and Hon. Stephen Cass recused themselves from the trial because they are both members of the National Rifle Association.

Wassell was originally charged with a misdemeanor under the NY SAFE Act, however Wassell was not indicted on this charge. Wassell faces five class D felony charges, none of which are related to the SAFE Act. These charges stem from an incident where Wassell allegedly sold an assault weapon and ammunition to an undercover officer on Jan. 24, 2013. Class D felonies are the second lowest class of felonies, above class E and below class C, and carry a sentence of no less than two years but no more than seven years, as determined by the court.