Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery seems to enjoy playing Let's Make a Deal, even if he gets burned now and then.
In his latest move of seeming leniency, Montgomery's letting AR-15-toting brain scientist Peter Steinmetz escape serious penalties as long as he promises to, among other things, keep his weapons out of sight while he's at Valley airports for the next two years.
The high-profile deal Montgomery made with Shanesha Taylor, the woman who raised $114,000 after leaving her kids in a hot car while at a job interview, didn't work out so well. When Taylor didn't comply with the terms of her deferred prosecution deal, an equally high-profile story about the deal's failure made headlines.
Steinmetz, a scientist who studies the physical structure of the brain and how it relates with brain function, was arrested on July 25 after allegedly pointing the muzzle of his AR-15 briefly at a mother and daughter while hanging out at Phoenix International Sky Harbor Airport. At a news conference in early August at the office of his lawyer, Marc Victor, Steinmetz said he'd displayed the semi-automatic rifle openly as an "entirely political" demonstration of gun rights.
Police asked Montgomery's office to charge Steinmetz with two counts of disorderly conduct with a weapon. According to a letter dated November 4 outlining the terms of a deferred-prosecution deal, Steinmetz could have been -- and still could be -- slammed with a designation of the charges as "dangerous nature offenses." (The letter doesn't say it explicitly, but the designation means a greater possibility of a jail sentence.)
But Steinmetz could avoid any of that nastiness if he complies with the deal. The terms require the scientist to:
* Enroll in and complete an "extensive," certified course of instruction by the National Rifle Association. He must complete certifications for "Home Firearm Safety; Certified Pistol; and Personal Protection in the Home." Steinmetz has to pay all the associated costs of the classes and have them completed by March 30.
* Make a $500 donation to the Rio Salado Sportsman's Club Youth Program by March 30.
* Not carry a firearm openly at Sky Harbor, Williams Gateway Airport, Deer Valley Airport and/or the Goodyear Regional Airport for two years. (Apparently, he and his AR-15 are good to go at Mesa's Falcon Field or the Chandler Regional Airport.) The deal allows Steinmetz to carry firearms at airports in accordance with "all laws" -- but he must carry them concealed.
Violate the terms, the letter goes on, and risk arrest and felony criminal charges.
The deal does not require Steinmetz to admit guilt.
"At all times, Mr. Steinmetz has maintained, and continues to maintain, his innocence," Victor said in a statement emailed to New Times this morning. "I appreciate the careful consideration given to the evidence by Mr. Montgomery and his office. Mr. Steinmetz is obviously pleased with the decision not to pursue any charges against him, and he maintains the importance of peacefully defending important, fundamental, constitutional rights. Mr. Steinmetz intends to continue to peacefully advocate for the rights of responsible gun owners to safely keep and bear arms."
Steinmetz told a local TV station with advance word of the deal on Tuesday that, "I certainly didn't intend to commit a crime; I did not commit a crime... I think the important point that was made is that, in fact, as Americans, we have a non-infringeable right to keep and bear arms and that you can legally do so at Sky Harbor Airport."
Except that Steinmetz can't "legally do so" at the airport -- not unless he keeps his weapons concealed. Perhaps the highly-degreed Steinmetz is confused about that. If so, his odd form of activism could be a deal-breaker.
Got a tip? Send it to: Ray Stern.
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