More brazen prosecutorial callousness under Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ regime emerged this month inside federal court where a citizen who could lawfully purchase a gun was arrested, jailed and charged for executing his second amendment constitutional right.
William Ross’ nightmare began in 2016 when he filled out required government paperwork at Ammo Brothers to buy a 40-caliber Glock 22 and unwittingly launched a mind-numbing, bureaucratic exercise in gross stupidity.
Now inside Orange County’s Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse Ross is suing the Tustin Police Department and several officers for violating his civil rights.
When the Tustin resident submitted the weapon-purchase paperwork, he swore he was not a convicted felon. He was correct. In April 2005, officials convicted Ross for unauthorized computer access. A year later, a judge reduced the felony to a misdemeanor and the case got completely dismissed in 2008.
But the U.S. Department of Justice notified Rackauckas’ office in 2016 that Ross sought to buy a gun and requested an investigation. A month later, prosecutors forwarded that letter to Tustin PD, where officers obtained the Ammo Brothers paperwork and Ross’ criminal history of the expunged felony before driving to his home.
“[Ross] told [the detectives] that he did attempt to exercise his right to purchase and own a firearm by going to Ammo Brothers in Oct. 2016 and filling out the necessary forms,” Jeremy Jass, the plaintiff’s Long Beach-based attorney wrote in the lawsuit. “He further told the detectives that his previous conviction was reduced to a misdemeanor and dismissed, ant that he was therefore eligible to purchase a firearm because he was no longer a ‘felon’ nor ‘convicted.’ He insisted that he did not answer any questions on the purchase paperwork incorrectly. He even went so far as to provide them with court documents that verified that his previous conviction was reduced and dismissed.”
Nonetheless, four cops arrested Ross, transported him to Tustin PD, interrogated him and then booked him into the Orange County Jail, where he stayed until he was allowed to post bail.
Though officers claimed they’d lost the recording of the interrogation, they prompted prosecutors to file charges of providing false information to obtain a firearm on May 1, 2017.
Two months later, someone with a brain inside the District Attorney’s office dropped the case and a judge granted Ross a finding of factual innocence.
“[The defendant cops] intentionally and maliciously deprived Ross of his rights secured to him by the First, Fourth and 14thAmendments to the U.S. Constitution in that the defendants subjected [my client] to unreasonable, unnecessary seizure and arrest even though no reasonable cause existed to believe he committed the offense for which the arrest was made,” Jass wrote.
Attorneys for the cops have not yet filed an answer.
The case for damages will proceed with U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna.
CNN-featured investigative reporter R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.