Washington, D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan has declined to prosecute NBC News reporter David Gregory for displaying an illegal ammunition magazine on the network's "Meet the Press" show.
Nathan said the decision whether to prosecute Gregory was "close" and was made despite "the feeble and unsatisfactory efforts that NBC made to determine whether or not it was lawful to possess, display and broadcast this large capacity magazine as a means of fostering the public policy debate."
The "Meet the Press" anchor ignored police guidance and held up an illegal 30-round rifle magazine in his D.C. studio during an interview on Dec. 23 with the National Rifle Association's Wayne LaPierre on gun-control laws. The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) concluded the three-and-a-half week investigation into the allegations -- seen live on national TV -- without an arrest by turning over the facts to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG).
In 2012, the police arrested at least 105 people for charges that included possession of a magazine that can hold more than 10 rounds. The OAG charged 15 of those people in cases that included a "high-capacity feeding device or extended clip."
Ted Gest, the OAG's spokesman, explained that, "This does not mean that the 105 arrests were presented to us and we charged only 15. Most of the arrests never made it to us - MPD either didn't bring them to us or brought them to the U.S. Attorney."
One of the 15 who were charged was James Brinkley, an Army veteran and federal employee, who was arrested and jailed while legally transporting his unloaded Glock 22 to the range with the two standard 15-round magazines that came with the pistol.
D.C. Assistant Attorney General Rachel Bohlen offered him a deal to plead guilty to possession of an unregistered firearm in return for unsupervised probation. He refused to falsely admit guilt.
"I hadn't done anything wrong," he told me in an interview. "I felt in my heart I was doing the right thing. I was going to stand up, no matter what the outcome would be."
In fact, Mr. Nathan wrote in his letter about letting off Mr. Gregory that his office has, "a history of aggressively prosecuting violations of this statute where the circumstances warrant. There is no doubt of the gravity of the illegal conduct in this matter,especially in a city and a nation that have been plagued by carnage from gun violence."
So celebrity talking head Gregory gets a pass while an army vet is thrown in the slammer for the same violation? Why doesn't that surprise us?
Another question: If Gregory's defense was "feeble and unsatisfactory," how can the OAG possibly justify not prosecuting the newsman? How could it be a close call? If army vet Brinkley's defense wasn't feeble and unsatisfactory, why was he jailed and Gregory gets off scott free?
This outrageous double standard should be investigated by Congress. The Congress still oversees the DC government to a large extent and if there is any jurisdictional oversight, Congress should take advantage and invesigate this incident, as well as the attorney general.
Update from Thomas Lifson:
William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection notes that DC Attorney General Irvin Nathan, who let Gregory off the hook:
knew Gregory and his wife, high-powered attorney Beth Wilkinson.
Anne dug up the connection in which in 2011 Nathan and Wilkinson participated together in acharity mock trial for the Washington, D.C. Shakespeare Theatre Company (emphasis in original):
In this town full of lawyers it should be no surprise that this event sold out in 44 seconds..... The attorneys were Beth Wilkinson a partner at Paul Weiss (and wife ofDavid Gregory, aka the Silver Fox, who was snapping pictures like a proud hubby!) and Irv Nathan, Acting Attorney General for DC. Both were hilarious and Beth looked so great in her black dress and patent leather heels, I was totally motivated to stick to my overly arduous diet.
Here's an image from the annual report (at p. 58):
Isn't it time for the House of Representatives to investigate the handling of prosecutions under this law?