The truth about Cleveland’s “Assault Weapon Ban” - Part II

By Ken Hanson and Jim Irvine

As we previously reported, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson recently announced a crime crackdown program that is apparently intended to crackdown on crime rather than guns. This is a welcome change from prior “crackdowns,” and we wish Cleveland the best with their new program.

Previously Mayor Jackson, together with his unpaid public relations firm the Cleveland Plain Dealer, had lamented the demise of Cleveland’s Assault Weapon Ban (AWB). As the Plain Dealer said in a recent editorial entitled "Gun laws need to be strengthened and enforced to keep criminals disarmed", “Cleveland had a tough assault-weapons ban until the state's concealed-weapons law invalidated it. That's simply wrong.” Wow, tough talk, the Plain Dealer must know something the rest of us missed, right?

So Buckeye Firearms Association submitted a Public Records request to Mayor Jackson in order to get to the bottom of the crime wave caused by the ready availability of “assault weapons.” As we reported in The truth about Cleveland’s “Assault Weapon Ban” - Part I, after several months, Cleveland produced a grand total of three cases where people had been charged with violating the AWB during Jackson’s administration. These three cases revealed far more about an administration that is soft on gun crime than about inanimate objects causing their woes. This series of articles will examine each of these three AWB cases.

A little “Home Rule 101” is in order prior to examining these cases. Cleveland, like very municipality in Ohio, has limited “home rule” authority as granted in the Ohio Constitution. HB347 established one uniform set of laws statewide with regard to firearms, thus invalidating Cleveland’s local ordinances. The City of Cleveland, specifically Mayor Frank Jackson, took exception with this, and filed suit against Ohio to overturn this portion of HB347. It is important to note that municipalities, in any area of home rule, may only pass misdemeanor laws. Almost 100% of Ohio’s laws on misuse of a gun are felonies. In cases where a felony is charged, the misdemeanor charges are completely superfluous under the doctrine of “concurrent time.” Simply put, if they are charged with the a felony, the misdemeanor cannot be punished separately in most instances.

Against that backdrop, the first case we will examine is that of Edward Lesure. Cleveland was able to provide a police report and a docket in this case, and the information contained therein was absolutely shocking.

On February 5, 2007, the Cleveland Police Department (CPD) was dispatched to 15500 Lake Shore Blvd in response to a call alleging domestic violence and the male threatening the female with a gun. Officers arrived and found Mr. Lesure with his hands obscured in a cabinet, arguing with a female who he was threatening with harm. The disturbance was severe enough that officers heard it from outside. The officers entered and ordered Mr. Lesure out into the hallway. Lesure was generally non-compliant with their orders, refused to show his hands, and physically resisted arrest. Officers eventually subdued him and arrested him. A Tec 9 was found in the cabinet where his hand was obscured when officers arrived. Mr. Lesure was charged with violating a protection order the victim had obtained, violating Cleveland’s Child Access/Safe Storage gun ordinance, violating Cleveland’s AWB and resisting arrest. Lesure posted bond on these charges in less than 48 hours. He was released with an Order (yet again) not to contact/harm the victim.

On February 24, 2007, the CPD was dispatched back to the same house with the same parties engaged in yet another physical altercation, with Mr. Lesure again threatening the same victim and physically assaulting her. This despite the (apparently) previously issued protection order he violated on February 5, and the new protection order that was issued on February 7 when he posted bond from previously assaulting this lady.

The first indication that the City of Cleveland isn’t examining cases close enough is that you cannot lawfully possess firearms when a protection order is issued. This is the vaunted Lautenberg amendment. Mr. Lesure apparently did this on February 5, 2007 – they caught him with a gun and arrested him for violating a protection order. This is firearm under disability and violation of a protection order, and is a state and federal crime (felony.) So instead of seeking the more severe, felony level charge here, the misdemeanors were charged as noted above.

Even more serious, had the CPD even checked, Mr. Lesure had two pending felony charges in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court - case number 06-CR-487441A - at the time he was caught with the gun. One of the two felony charges was aggravated theft, which means he was under an entirely different federal and state disqualification from firearm ownership at the time he was caught with the gun on February 5, 2007. This is firearm under disability and is a state and federal crime (felony.) Stated plainly, this man had pending felony charges in a different case and couldn’t possess any firearm. Yet Cleveland only sought the misdemeanor gun charges rather than the felony disability charges.

Even worse than that, if CPD had examined the docket at all, they would have learned that Lesure had not shown up for his Common Pleas felony case and had just been arrested and put in jail on that case for failure to appear. He had a demonstrated history of not following court orders. On February 1 he posted a token bail in the felony case ($1,500 posted by a bondsman, meaning it likely cost $150 to get out of jail) and 4 days later committed the violent gun crime that Cleveland charged only as a misdemeanor. Compounding this is that despite demonstrating that he would not obey Court Orders to appear, and despite demonstrating he would not obey yet another Court Order issued to protect the victim, the Court allowed Lesure to go free on bail with just another Order to stay away from the victim, which he promptly disobeyed.

Lesure also subsequently skipped his bail on the misdemeanor gun assault case and had to be arrested to be brought back to face the charges.

So a guy committing gun crimes while under several felony disabilities, who skips his bail and had pending felony charges should get hammered, even on the misdemeanor charges Cleveland inexplicably chose to pursue versus the felonies? Not only do they not pursue the sitting duck felony charges (take your pick) for firearm under disability, they dismiss most all the misdemeanor charges from the assault case. He ends up pleading to only the resisting arrest charge. No domestic violence, no assault, no aggravated menacing, no violation of the AWB, no violation of the safe storage law.

His sentence? Time served. (He eventually was arrested for skipping bail and had to sit in jail awaiting trial/sentencing.) So his punishment was really non-existent, he ended up serving only the time he had to serve for skipping bail. (Skipping for the second time, mind you.)

Honestly, Plain Dealer, isn’t this the sort of expose that young investigative journalists live for? Politicians blaming lack of laws for crime when the politician conclusively didn’t use the law when it was in effect. Did you do any investigation at all before establishing your editorial position?

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