Thursday, May 27, 2004

Gun-training charges dropped after being filed in wrong court

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MIDDLETOWN - Authorities on Wednesday dismissed charges against a local firearms trainer, realizing they had been filed in the wrong court. But the defendant's lawyer said he expects the case against his client isn't going away.

"This court has no jurisdiction," said H.T. Derivan, a Middletown lawyer representing James E. Burgess, 68, a Middletown firearms trainer who is accused of short-cutting training for concealed-weapons permit candidates.

The case could be unique in Ohio. Kim Norris, spokeswoman for the Ohio Attorney General's Office, on Wednesday said she was unaware of any other Ohio firearms trainers facing criminal charges since the state's concealed-weapons law took effect April 8.

Derivan said the dismissal of charges came after Bruce Fassler, city prosecutor, acknowledged that the charges against Burgess should have been filed in Butler County Area III Court, not in Middletown Municipal Court.

Derivan said he expects the case to be refiled in the proper court or go before a grand jury, which will consider whether to indict. He said his client would plead not guilty.

Burgess is charged with issuing firearms-training certificates to students who had completed less than half the required 12 hours of gun-safety training that Ohio law requires as the first step for getting a license to carry a concealed pistol.

Burgess was arrested last month at a Monroe gun shop on a warrant for a misdemeanor charge of falsification. Authorities said they found a .22-caliber pistol in his pocket and added a felony charge of illegally carrying a concealed weapon.

Police have said that Burgess was certified to teach the gun-safety course, which includes two hours of firing a gun. But they said he taught about five hours of classroom work and about 30 minutes of actual shooting. The certificates Burgess issued are invalid and his students had to attend another class before they could apply for a concealed-carry permit.


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