EXCLUSIVE: A judge yesterday reluctantly sentenced a Marine MP whose loaded service weapon was brandished at police by another man during a melee outside a Fort Lee nightclub to five years in state prison.
However, he allowed Hisashi Pompey to remain free on appeal based on his service to his country. If Pompey loses the bid, he will have to serve three years behind bars before he’ll be eligible for parole.
Superior Court Judge Edward A. Jerejian said he really had no choice under the state law known as the Graves Act.
“Other states are different, but here we have mandatory sentences,” Jerejian told him. “This was basically a very unfortunate situation, and the plea offer still included state prison time and would have cost you your career.
“Everyone recognizes what you did for your country,” said the judge, who regularly hears applications for gun permits in the county. “You served two tours, were wounded.
“But the shoe didn’t fit,” he added. “You weren’t going from one base to another. You were not a federal officer. It really wasn’t that.
“It was a Marine on leave who went out for the night, and there was a weapon with no permit — it’s as simple as that,” Jerejian said.
“If the gun was in a lock box, it would have been more of a technical problem,” the judge said. “But it ended up being waved around with police officers present, and thank God no one was injured.”
Pompey had come 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 with a school friend.
At some point, his friend got involved with an unruly crowd, the Marine testified during his trial this past May.
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 officers testified that the situation quickly got chaotic.
One of them told jurors that he saw Pompey’s friend, Isaiah Wilson, throw the .40-cal. 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 Wilson moment 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 the man 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 earlier this month.
“Before I joined the Marine Corps I wasn’t the smartest individual,” Pompey told Jerejian yesterday, citing a “lack of discipline.”
“After I joined the Marine Corps, my life changed and I have never gotten in trouble until this incident,” Pompey said. “It was just a bad day.”
He recently married, he said, and has three young children from a previous relationship. His wife lives with him on the military base in Quantico, Virginia.
Going to prison would be a hardship to his family, Pompey said, because he’ll be unable to provide for them.
“I accept it would be a hardship for you to go to prison,” the judge responded. “But to modify the mandatory sentence I have to be clearly convinced that the mitigating factors totally outweigh the aggravating factors, and I’m not.”
Defense attorney John Carbone said he believed there would have been a different verdict if Jerejian allowed jurors to be told that 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.
The lawyer said he would be basing his appeal, in part, on that argument.
STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
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