Shaneen Allen is the Philadelphia woman who now faces felony gun charges in New Jersey – her story has spread across various internet gun blogs for the past couple of weeks – and yesterday, law professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds unloaded on the judge and prosecutor in her case in an Op-Ed published by USA Today.
This morning, in a telephone interview, Allen’s attorney, Evan Nappen told Examiner that this case “exposes how bad” the New Jersey gun laws are. Allen had only obtained her Pennsylvania carry permit a week before she drove into New Jersey to help set up a surprise party. She was, as Frank Jack Fiamingo, president of the New Jersey Second Amendment Society (NJ2AS) observed, “squeaky clean.”
Allen was pulled over on a traffic stop. She immediately informed the officer that she had a pistol and was licensed to carry in Pennsylvania. She was arrested, held in jail for 40 days, and now faces several years in prison. According to Nappen and Fiamingo, she is essentially being prosecuted for being honest.
Reynolds, who teaches law at the University of Tennessee, noted in his column yesterday that the judge and prosecutor in this case, Judge Michael Donio and District Attorney Jim McClain, are the same two men who put a prominent NFL player in a diversion program after he “beat his wife unconscious in an elevator.” But Allen is far more dangerous, one presumes, because she had a legally-carried – in Pennsylvania, anyway – pistol in her possession that was loaded with hollowpoint ammunition.
Donio and McClain are reportedly unwilling to give Allen, an African-American single mother who has no criminal record, the same break they gave the football player. She would come out of the program with no loss of civil rights. Reynolds believes “They seem to want to make an example of her.”
“The problem is,” Reynolds wrote about Allen, “she's being punished for something the Constitution says -- and the Supreme Court has agreed -- is a constitutional right. And the super-stiff penalties and abusive prosecution she’s experiencing are pretty clearly intended to chill people from exercising that right.”
That much seems to have been confirmed by a leading gun control proponent named Bryan Miller. Quoted by the Washington Post, he said, “Fortunately, the notoriety of this case will make it less likely Pennsylvanians will carry concealed and loaded handguns in New Jersey, thereby making them and the Garden State safer from gun violence.”
However, as Reynolds noted, Allen hadn’t committed a violent crime. She hadn’t harmed anybody. She ran afoul of a New Jersey gun law that creates something of a gulag atmosphere in the Garden State and Allen is not the first victim.
NRA News’ Ginny Simone did a story on the Allen case. The story is also getting attention all over the blogosphere.
But Fiamingo and his NJ2AS group are busy right now, trying to educate people in Atlantic County, about their rights, and their responsibilities, as jurors. Working with the Fully Informed Jury Association, a group based in Helena, Mont., they are hoping that a jury does what the judge and prosecutor haven’t done: Give Allen a chance. They’re being careful so as not to create any impression of jury tampering.
Fiamingo also thinks that public pressure on the state’s executive branch may have an impact.
Nappen said he is preparing for trial, which is scheduled for Oct. 6 in Atlantic County Superior Court. A fund has already been established to cover Allen’s legal bills, but donations are still being accepted because it is no telling where this case might go.
If there is any justice remaining in New Jersey, this case ought to go in the nearest trash bin, Fiamingo intimated. Reynolds suggested it is time for Congress to act, so that cases like Allen’s can no longer be brought as a means of ruining someone’s life for what clearly seems an innocent mistake.