FORT LEE, N.J. -- Days before his five-year prison sentence was to begin, a decorated Marine MP whose loaded service weapon was brandished at police by another man during a melee outside a Fort Lee nightclub had his term commuted to time served by Gov. Christie.
Christie withheld a decision on a pardon for Hisashi Pompey pending further consideration, however.
A judge in Hackensack in 2013 said he had no choice on the sentence under New Jersey's Graves Act. Although the gun was legal for Pompey to carry in Virginia, where he was stationed, it isn't in New Jersey.If the gun was in a lock box, it would have been "more of a technical question," the judge said at the time. But Pompey's friend ended up waving it around.Pompey said he, too, was without a genuine choice: A plea bargain would have meant prison time and a dishonorable discharge.
The judge allowed Pompey to remain free pending appeal, which he lost in February because the Federal Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act (LEOSA) – which allows certain government personnel to carry concealed weapons across state lines – didn’t extend to military police when the incident occurred.
MPs didn’t qualify because they had powers of apprehension and not arrest, the Appellate Division judges said.
Congress amended the law in January 2013, adding military police to the class of qualified law enforcement officers permitted to carry firearms across state lines, the panel noted.
Pompey came home for the 2011 Christmas holiday on impulse only to find his girlfriend and kids not around. So he ended up going to the Tribecca nightclub in Fort Lee with his school friend.
At some point, the friend got involved with an unruly crowd, the Marine testified during his May 2013 trial.
Pompey said he went to his car, parked in a lot behind the Port Authority administration building off Lemoine Avenue near the George Washington Bridge and put on his holster. Then he took his gun out of a bag and loaded it.
Moments later, his friend grabbed the weapon — at which point several Port Authority officers had arrived, he said.
The situation quickly got chaotic, an officer testified.
One of them told jurors that he saw Pompey’s friend, Irwin Wilson, throw the .40-caliber Glock handgun under a truck after first disobeying orders to hand it over, dropping a bullet into the chamber and then trying to run away.
Five officers grabbed him moments later.
Standing down was the appropriate response given the number of uniformed officers present, Pompey said during the trial, so he didn’t try to tackle his friend.
From there, he said, he simply waited until Wilson had been subdued and handcuffed to approach the police and take responsibility for the weapon.
“I thought military weapons were covered in all states,” he said. “If I had known they weren’t recognized in New Jersey, I never would have brought it here.”
Wilson pleaded guilty in connection with the case and also was sentenced to five years in prison in September 2013.
“Before I joined the Marine Corps I wasn’t the smartest individual,” Pompey told the judge at his own sentencing. "After I joined the Marine Corps, my life changed and I have never gotten in trouble until this incident.
“It was just a bad day.”
He'd recently married, he said, and had three young children from a previous relationship. They all lived at the military base in Quantico, VA.
Defense attorney John Carbone said he believed there would have been a different verdict if jurors were permitted to be told they could have found that Pompey made a mistake in judgment and didn’t act deliberately and if the judge had agreed that he was in-between military destinations.