TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A state appellate court has overturned two convictions for a New Jersey man who was sentenced to seven years in prison after being found with guns he had purchased legally in Colorado.
However, the two-judge panel upheld another conviction in the case of Brian Aitken, who served almost four months in state prison before Gov. Chris Christie commuted his sentence in December 2010. By then, Aitken’s case had become a cause celebre among gun-rights advocates.
The case began in 2009, when Aitken muttered to his mother that life wasn’t living and left her home in Mount Laurel. She called police, who found two handguns in the trunk of his car.
Aitken said he was in transit in a move to Hoboken — which he said should have exempted him from weapon-registration laws. But Judge James Morley would not allow the argument at trial, and a jury convicted Aitken.
In a ruling made public Friday, the appellate court overturned Aitken’s conviction for possessing the guns, saying Morley erred and that jurors should have been allowed to consider the exemption argument. The panel also overturned Aitken’s conviction for possession of a large-capacity ammunition magazine, saying the prosecution had failed to show the magazines were operable.
However, the judges upheld Aitkin’s conviction for possessing hollow-point bullets, rejecting his argument that ammunition should also fall under the exemption for weapons being moved.
Lawyers for both sides are mulling whether to appeal any of the appellate court decisions to the state Supreme Court. Aitken, who now lives in Atlanta, could not be reached for comment Saturday.
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