Media Blog

Jim Webb Gun Story Coverage Comes Up Short

Late Friday, all charges were dropped against Jim Webb aide Phillip Thompson for bringing a loaded gun into the Russell Senate office building.

Here’s how the AP reported it:

District of Columbia law prohibits carrying a handgun or concealed weapon without a license Prosecutors say that after reviewing the evidence, they do NOT believe they can prove the crime of carrying a pistol without a license.

After reading this account, you’re left with, “how in the world could prosecutors not make the case?”  Thompson had the gun and no license.  Seems open and shut.
The Washington Post, however, did a better job explaining the ruling:

To prove the charge, prosecutors would have had to show that Thompson knew he had the gun.
Defense lawyer Richard Gardiner, who was representing Thompson, said he was told by the prosecutor on the case that a video recording of the incident had been reviewed and that statements had been taken from all of the officers present when the gun was discovered.
“There was apparently complete unanimity that Mr. Thompson was totally stunned and clearly did not know that the gun was in there,” Gardiner said.

But even the Post’s description is lacking.  It would have been informative if the Post had done a little digging to see how many others, accused of the same crime, had gotten off due to the “totally stunned” defense.  I do wonder if this case puts in jeopardy the prosecution of future gun crimes.  If this is the standard for guilt, from now on, a criminal would only have to put an illegal gun in a bag and then claim ignorance on how it got there.

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