SWAT Team in Full Body Armor Raids Home, Confiscates ONE Dud Shell Casing, Federal Charges Laid

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At 8:20 p.m. on July 7, 2012, SWAT agents showed up at Mark Witaschek’s D.C. home to execute a search warrant for “firearms and ammunition … gun cleaning equipment, holsters, bullet holders and ammunition receipts.”

Witaschek’s 14-year-old daughter answered the door and let about 30 officers, who were in full tactical gear, inside.

The officers immediately charged upstairs and demanded that Witaschek and his girlfriend, Bonnie Harris, surrender, face-down. Both were handcuffed.

Witaschek told The Washington Times about the raid. His 16-year-old son was in the shower when the officers arrived:

“They used a battering ram to bash down the bathroom door and pull him out of the shower, naked. The police put all the children together in a room, while we were handcuffed upstairs. I could hear them crying, not knowing what was happening.”

The agents tore through Witaschek’s house for two hours. He said “They tossed the place,” and estimated the damage to his home at $10,000.

Four items were confiscated by the police, as written on the warrant:

“One live round of 12-gauge shotgun ammunition,” which was an inoperable shell that misfired during a hunt years earlier. Witaschek had kept it as a souvenir.

“One handgun holster” was found, which is perfectly legal.

“One expended round of .270 caliber ammunition,” which was a spent brass casing.

The police uncovered “one box of Knight bullets for reloading.” These are actually not for reloading, but are used in antique-replica, single-shot, muzzle-loading rifles.

This wasn’t the first time Witaschek’s home was searched. A month earlier, he allowed members of the “Gun Recovery Unit” to search without a warrant because he thought he had nothing to hide, but items were found and seized on that visit too, as reported by The Washington Times:

After about an hour and a half, the police found one box of Winchester .40 caliber ammunition, one gun-cleaning kit (fully legal) and a Civil War-era Colt antique revolver that Mr. Witaschek kept on his office desk. The police seized the Colt even though antique firearms are legal and do not have to be registered.

The police based both searches on accusations made by Witaschek’s estranged wife, who had earlier convinced a court clerk to issue a temporary restraining order against her husband for threatening her with a gun – a claim a judge found to be without merit.

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Witaschek is a gun owner and hunter. He stores his collection at his sister’s home in Virginia. Two weeks after the June raid of his home, police investigators showed up at his sister’s house – without a warrant – and asked to “view” Witaschek’s guns. She refused, and the next day police returned and served her with a criminal subpoena.

A successful financial adviser with no criminal history, Witaschek is now the first known case of a citizen being prosecuted in D.C. for inoperable ammunition.

If convicted, he faces a year in jail and a $1,000 fine for having a single, inoperable shotgun shell in his home. The jury trial starts on February 11.

This week, Witaschek told The Washington Times his thoughts on the ordeal:

“Since the night my home was invaded and family terrorized by a militarized D.C. police force, I am more afraid of what government is doing than I am of any of the people I encountered when I spent the night in jail.

The Second Amendment was meant to guarantee individuals the right to protect themselves against government — as much as against private bad guys and gangs.”

D.C. police and prosecutors have spent a year and a half trying to punish him for the possession of “unregistered ammunition.”  They really, really want to nail this man. There have been two pre-trial hearings so far. Judge Robert Morin gave the government until January 3 to come up with a good defense for the first police raid, which was conducted without a warrant.

Things weren’t looking good for the prosecution, so Peter Saba and Oritsejemine Trouth, the two assistant attorneys general on the case, offered Witaschek probation if he pleaded guilty. He rejected that offer.

At the second hearing, the judge disallowed the box of rifle ammunition that was seized in the warrantless raid, but that didn’t stop the prosecution from desperately clinging to their “case”:

The prosecutors continued with the two items from the second raid – a misfired 12-gauge shotgun shell and a box of muzzleloader sabots.

Sabots are plastic covers that make it easier to push the bullet into a muzzleloader gun. There is no propellent on the bullet or sabot — because the gunpowder is separated — so it is not clear that it can be categorized as ammunition and thus only registered gun owners can possess it.

Thus, the single vaguely legitimate remaining charge for “unregistered ammunition” is the misfired shotgun shell that Mr. Witaschek has kept as a souvenir from deer hunting years earlier. The shell cannot be fired because the primer was already stricken and failed to propel it. (source)

Witaschek rejected the prosecution’s second offer to plead guilty to a reduced charge of “attempted possession” of ammunition, a crime that would carry a maximum of penalty of a six-month jail sentence, and is not eligible for a jury trial.

“I believe that some in the prosecution and police apparatus know what they did and are trying to continue this charade to cover their tracks,” Mr. Witaschek said of the warrantless raid and SWAT team tactics used against his family. “If I am proven a ‘criminal,’ then their bad acts are covered. If not, they are liable.”

Why is the prosecution relentlessly seeking to punish Witaschek?

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D.C. has some of the most oppressive gun laws in America, as Police State USA explains:

To understand just how draconian this prohibition is, we need to look at the law itself — which is almost unbelievable to someone unfamiliar with the police state in D.C.  But here it is, according to D.C. Code § 7-2506.01:

(a) No person shall possess ammunition in the District of Columbia unless:

(1) He is a licensed dealer pursuant to subchapter IV of this unit;

(2) He is an officer, agent, or employee of the District of Columbia or the United States of America, on duty and acting within the scope of his duties when possessing such ammunition;

(3) He is the holder of the valid registration certificate for a firearm of the same gauge or caliber as the ammunition he possesses; except, that no such person shall possess restricted pistol bullets; or

(4) He holds an ammunition collector’s certificate on September 24, 1976.

This is one of the most oppressive ammunition laws in the country.  Possessing something that arbitrary and innocuous in most parts of the USA will get a person a SWAT raid and prison time in Washington D.C.  The “crime” doesn’t need to involve an actual firearm or any malicious behavior.  Enforcers are exempt from the law, and anyone else must seek the district’s permission to exercise their “rights”.

But it gets worse.   D.C. code has an interesting way of defining “ammunition.”

Per D.C. Code § 7-2501.01 (2), ammunition in Washington D.C. is defined as:

(2) “Ammunition” means cartridge cases, shells, projectiles (including shot), primers, bullets (including restricted pistol bullets), propellant powder, or other devices or materials designed, redesigned, or intended for use in a firearm or destructive device.

Most shooters consider “ammunition” to be the finished product of several components that is ready to be discharged.  This would include a casing fitted with a primer, loaded with powder, clamped to a projectile.  While a person can use basic tools to combine the components into a usable round of ammunition, the components themselves cannot be fired.

What is striking about the district’s definition is that it labels all of the separate components as “ammunition.”  This means that the already-oppressive ammo ban was written in such a broad manner that it goes far beyond usable rounds of ammo.  It was written to include things that couldn’t even be fired if the owner wanted to.

An empty brass casing — illegal.

A tiny BB, known as “shot” — illegal.

A piece of metal capable of being a projectile — illegal.

Let’s hope the jury is smart enough to see this case for what it really is – a waste of taxpayer money on absurd charges for a man who is clearly not a threat to society.

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Contributed by Lily Dane of The Daily Sheeple.

Lily Dane is a staff writer for The Daily Sheeple. Her goal is to help people to “Wake the Flock Up!”

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