SAFE Act Charges Dismissed In Court

MAYVILLE — Chautauqua County Court Judge Stephen W. Cass on Monday dismissed charges against Silver Creek resident Benjamin Wassell.

Wassell received multiple charges related to the sale of rifles and ammunition shortly after the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act was passed in mid-January 2013 in response to the killing of 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Conn.

Wassell was charged after allegedly selling an AR-15, nearly 300 rounds of ammunition and six magazines and an AR-10 semi-automatic rifle with 31 rounds of ammunition and one magazine to undercover State Police investigators. An Iraq War veteran and father of four, Wassell was the first man convicted under the SAFE Act. In April, his SAFE Act-related conviction was overturned by the Fourth Department Appellate Division court in Rochester, where the judicial panel unanimously reversed the judgment and remitted the case back to Chautauqua County Court.

It was determined that then-Attorney General Eric Schneiderman did not have the authority to prosecute Wassell for the charges. Judges decided the record did not establish that the State Police superintendent asked the Attorney General’s office to prosecute the case and that no letter had been entered into the record from the State Police superintendent asking the Attorney General to prosecute.

In May 2014, Wassell was convicted in Chautauqua County Court of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and two counts of third-degree criminal sale of a weapon related to the same incident. These charges were dismissed by Cass on Monday morning.

Wassell’s attorney, James Ostrowski, told The Buffalo News the felony conviction will be cleared from his record. “The Second Amendment arguments against the SAFE Act law will continue to be made,” he told the Buffalo newspaper.

Wassell said his life has been turned “upside-down” for almost seven years.

“I got fired from the job I had when I got arrested,” Wassell told The Buffalo News. “I was also under consideration for a job with the federal government, and I was told I was no longer under consideration, because of the arrest. I tried to get back on active duty with the Marines and was turned down. And with all that has happened, there was no ruling in my case on whether the SAFE Act is unconstitutional or not.”