Full Weight Of State Government Was Not Needed In Silver Creek Man’s Case

The dismissal of SAFE Act-related charges against Ben Wassell is the end of a long and arduous legal journey for the Silver Creek man.

While the Fourth Department Appellate Division’s ruling in Wassell’s case doesn’t satisfy those who believe the SAFE Act violates the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the ruling does touch on an even more chilling thought — government overreach.

The Appellate Division didn’t have to rule on Wassell’s attorneys’ arguments that the SAFE Act is unconstitutioual because it could rule more easily on the argument that former state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman didn’t have authority to prosecute the case in Chautauqua County. When one thinks about it, the court’s decision touches on a basic tenet of the core freedoms Americans hold so dear — that court proceedings will be fair for both the prosecution and the defense.

Certainly, if a charge is serious enough, it is warranted for the state Attorney General to prosecute it. In those instances, there must be a request for the Attorney General to handle such a case. In Wassell’s case, the state’s top attorney interjected himself into a local matter to score political points. Such action strikes at the heart of our criminal justice system.

The full weight of the government should be used only in the most serious of cases. Schneiderman’s insistence on interjecting his office in what was essentially a local prosecutorial matter is chilling. While we wish the Fourth Department Appellate Division had ruled on the rest of Wassell’s arguments, it is good that the court reiterated that political witch hunts have no place in our courts.

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