The trial for the man who was found to have antique replica muzzleloader bullets in his home has finally come to a conclusion, but it’s not the one he and his lawyers had been hoping for: a Washington D.C. judge found Mark Witaschek guilty of “attempted possession of unlawful ammunition.”
According to the Washington Times, it took nearly two years for the case to get a verdict. In 2012, a search of Witaschek’s house, reportedly sparked by a charge made by Witaschek’s estranged wife, produced muzzleloader bullets and a single shotgun shell. In DC, it is illegal to own ammunition that has not been registered.
Up until the trial’s final moments, the focus of the case was on determining whether the single 12 gauge shotgun shell, which was found in Witaschek’s home, was operable.
Also central to the debate was whether the bullets were legal; D.C. residents are allowed to buy antique replica firearms without registering.
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During the trial on Wednesday afternoon, Judge Robert Morin shook the plastic shell and tried to listen to something inside it. After announcing that he could not hear any gunpowder in the shell, he asked lawyers to open it.
Notably, it is not, in fact, the presence of gunpowder that would determine if the shell is operable; instead, the lack of primer would have indicated the misfired shell’s inoperability.
Assistant Attorney General Peter Saba, however, said that it was dangerous to open the shell outside of a lab. Prosecutors and police officers then left the courtroom in search of an open lab, where the shell could be cut open.
When it was determined that no lab would be able to do so on the same day, Judge Morin decided to rule on the bullets.
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“I’ve never been arrested in my life up until this incident,” Witaschek told the judge before the sentencing. “My use of firearms is strictly recreational. I’ve never had any criminal intent.”
Moring sentenced Witaschek to time served and a $50 fine. Furthermore, Witaschek has 48 hours to enroll with the Metropolitan Police Department’s firearm offenders’ registry.
After the trial, Witaschek said that he was “completely outraged” by the verdict, adding that “none of these people know anything about gun issues, including the judge.”
Witaschek’s attorney, Howard X. McEachern, plans to appeal the decision.
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