Probation in gun sale case
MAYVILLE – The case that rocked a community rested on its final note Friday.
Benjamin Wassell, 33, of Silver Creek at his latest hearing heard he would not be receiving any jail time for his conviction on three class D felony counts involving weapons sales and possession.
Back in March the OBSERVER followed the trial of Wassell, who was indicted on Sept. 11, 2013, by a grand jury on 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.
He was accused of twice selling weapons now prohibited under the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act.
According to Wassell’s defense attorney Michael Deal, of Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria LLP, his client was very relieved and appreciative when Judge Michael L. D’Amico announced his sentence to five years probation.
“I think the judge was immensely fair,” Deal said. “Ben Wassell is a good man; anyone who had contact with him outside this case knows that. He served his country, community, family, and friends. His family loves him and needs him. He is a very good person.”
Chautauqua County Probation will supervise Wassell and he will see a probation officer regularly, but he was able to go home, and will have the opportunity to find ways to provide for his loved ones.
Deal gave a little background on his client. Wassell had served two combat tours in Iraq. Having been injured, Wassell saved other members of his troop, and suffered a severe brain injury, which he is still dealing with.
“Ben said his wife saved his life; he was a mess and sacrificed his health for his country and for us,” Deal said. “He revealed who he is … a good community man.”
Deal added his wife is very relieved as well about her husband’s sentence.
“To say happy would be misleading. They are glad he is not in jail, but not happy he was convicted.” he said. “Ben respects the judge’s duty and is certainly joyful. He will be exploring legal avenues.”
According to Deal, if Wassell did get jail time he would’ve seen anywhere from two to seven years.
As for life after this trial, Deal wishes Wassell the best.
“I hope he is seen as someone who respects constitutional rights in its entirety. He is a strong believer in the Fifth Amendment,” he said. “Having said that the trial came down to Ben’s belief regarding weapons under the Safe Act, which was new at the time. I hope he is not seen as some criminal. I don’t think he should be thought of that way.”
Deal believes in the right to a fair trial, which is the foundation of America.
“We don’t want innocent people to get wrongly convicted; the system is to test cases out, make sure it works, and people get a defense; otherwise the system will break down,” he said. “I took this case for many reasons. It is a little unique and there are many elements to it. It was a straightforward case, not constitutional.”
He went on to say how some cases need to be taken on.
“It is like a house of cards; you test the evidence and know what it proves, making sure there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” Deal continued. “If we allow it to weaken and remove cards eventually it will break down. We don’t want innocent people to be convicted of a crime.”
This victory is something Deal won’t forget.
“I am relieved as well that the judge made the right decision,” he said. “In my opinion it would have been a tragedy for Ben to go to jail.”
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