Monday, December 20, 2010

Governor Awesome's Christmas moment: Brian Aitken is free! 

UPDATE (3 pm Tuesday): Brian is home with his family!

New Jersey's governor Chris Christie set Brian Aitken free today, correcting a great injustice at the hands of New Jersey police, prosecutors, and courts.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gave the Aitken family all they wanted for Christmas Monday.

Christie signed a letter ordering Brian Aitken, a New Jersey man sentenced to seven years in jail for having weapons he legally purchased in Colorado, to be released from Mid-State Correctional Facility as soon as possible.

Justice is served.

Oh, and Merry Christmas to Brian and the rest of the Aitken family.

MORE: Our original post on the subject, among the first in the blogosphere to take up the cause. Thank you, Governor Christie.

STILL MORE: Glenn Reynolds and Hot Air ask "Why commute his sentence instead of pardoning him outright?" Well, I can think of two reasons, neither of which are particularly principled, but nor are they unexpected. First, Chris Christie is a prosecutor down to the bone with a reputation for being uncompromising. He believes in enforcement of the law, and the Aitken case is a troubling intersection of aggressive policing (good, in the Christie view), aggressive prosecution (also good, but perhaps we need more nuance), lame judging (bad), and a really stupid but popular law. Second, never underestimate how popular gun control laws are in crowded urban states like New Jersey (the most densely populated state in the union for those of you reading this blog from elsewhere). Aitken may or may not be guilty of the law as written, however asinine it is, and the law as written may or may not violate the Second Amendment. The safest course for Christie is to let Aitken out without actually exonerating him. In other words, at the risk of sounding sizeist, Governor Awesome is having his cake and eating it too.


By Anonymous Ralph Gizzip, at Mon Dec 20, 07:54:00 PM:

I'll believe it when he's released. Who's to say "as soon as possible" isn't until after the New Year? After all, 'tis the season to take vacations.  

By Blogger Kaz, at Mon Dec 20, 08:10:00 PM:

A gutsy but correct move by Chris Christie. It's always easier to just let them rot, and not take the risk that they do something later on that will embarrass you.

I'm reminded of the Amirault daycare case where an obviously innocent man was left to rot in jail because Jane Swift the acting governor, didn't want to take the political risk of pardoning him. Even after the board of pardons and paroles voted 5-0 to recommend commutation of his sentence due to "lack of evidence against the Amiraults, and the "extraordinary if not bizarre allegations" on which they had been convicted." She left him rot. I hope Martha Coakly's role in keeping him in prison was factor in her losing the Senate race to Scott Brown last year.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Dec 20, 08:11:00 PM:

Sigh. The usual philly.com crappy reporting, that leaves out salient facts such as the disposition of the case. Was he pardoned & expunged, was his sentence commuted, or something else?

Being home for Christmas is nice, being home without a bogus felony rap is better.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Dec 20, 08:22:00 PM:

Sounds like he is stuck with the bogus felony rap. I'ms sick and tired of politicians ALMOST doing the right thing.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Dec 20, 08:23:00 PM:

I'm going to disagree, justice has not been served. An innocent man fell prey to an out-of-control legislative and legal system and a judge that willfully denied the few remain protections.

A travesty has been ended; justice is years away.  

By Blogger Brother J, at Mon Dec 20, 08:24:00 PM:

Does he get his property (the guns) back too?  

By Blogger Dandapani, at Mon Dec 20, 08:33:00 PM:

No gun if he is still a felon.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Dec 20, 09:13:00 PM:

Sounds like he is stuck with the bogus felony rap. I'ms sick and tired of politicians ALMOST doing the right thing

Not necessarily. According to his Facebook page, his sentence has been commuted, which means that he still has this conviction, but his conviction is being appealed. If New Jersey's appellate courts overturn the conviction, the judge who sentenced Aiken will get pimp-slapped AND all of New Jersey will have slightly more sane gun laws. A pardon doesn't help to correct the underlying flaws of a bad judge and a bad law.

Of course, if his conviction is upheld, Christie can pardon him.  

By Anonymous JT, at Mon Dec 20, 09:49:00 PM:

... book, movie - maybe made for TV, etc. ... Mr. Aitken makes money on this, and glorifies a return to proper conservatism on gun rights/control. A legal gun owner jailed while so many truly bad people committing gun crimes are wiggling out of things.

The right move by the Governor, and good luck and fortune to this man. I moved my own firearm from NJ to VA then NC locked in a safe unloaded. God knows how some activist might have treated me if I were stopped in possession of it.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Dec 20, 10:45:00 PM:

In comments (here and esp. elsewhere) people are jumping to conclusion based on ignorance. It appears -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- that Aitken asked for his sentence to be commuted; he did not asked to be pardoned.

As have been pointed out (more then once) commuting his sentence leave all the legal options open; a pardon does not.

Christie is doing both what Aitken and what is legally and politically most effective to prevent more abuses of this kind.

The Christie bashers need to get a grip and get off his back about this.  

By Blogger mydorazio, at Mon Dec 20, 11:59:00 PM:

OK, here's either an amazing coincidence or amazing citizen journalism. On Sunday a YouTuber made a "Free Brian Aitken" video with Christie's phone number on it and a plea to call for his release. On Monday, the governor frees Aitken. At http://www.bulletpeople.com/?p=1576 is more info plus the original video and pictures of the benign looking Aitken.  

By Blogger TOTWTYTR, at Tue Dec 21, 03:32:00 AM:

When you say "densely populated" do you mean people per square mile or the intelligence of certain public officials, or both?  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Tue Dec 21, 12:30:00 PM:

Christie's Red State - Second Amendment street cred just redlined.

I'm not suggesting this motivated Governor Awesome, but it's an incidental benefit.  

By Blogger pam, at Tue Dec 21, 02:40:00 PM:

He's home.  

By Anonymous DRJ, at Tue Dec 21, 06:26:00 PM:

As his attorney notes in this ABC News report, another reason to commute the sentence instead of issue a pardon is that Aitken can continue to legally appeal his conviction.  

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