N.J. man calling on Christie for clemency in gun-possession case

Brian Aitken is hoping for a “gift” from Gov. Christie

Jason Nark
Philly Daily News

WHEN BRIAN Aitken was younger, he unrolled a map and pressed pushpins into every vast wilderness, all the snow-capped peaks he could climb and snowboard, and any universities that happened to be close by.

But Aitken never put a pin on Fort Dix, where he now spends his days reading books and writing letters from his cell at Mid-State Correctional Facility.

Aitken, 27, a grad student with no prior criminal record, was sentenced to seven years for having handguns he bought legally in Colorado in the trunk of his car. He is awaiting his appeal and hoping for a “Christmas gift” from Gov. Chris Christie.

“I think at the end of the day, when this is all over, it’s a long road, but I’ll be vindicated,” a soft-spoken Aitken said Thursday morning during an interview at the prison.

Later that day during a news conference, Christie said he had received requests for clemency for Aitken, was reviewing documents and would decide whether he’ll intervene “prior to Christmas.”

Aitken’s story, featured in the Daily News last month, continues to gain national attention. He’s received letters of support from beyond the United States, including New Zealand and from soldiers in Afghanistan. His boyish, bespectacled face has also become a symbol for gun-rights advocates, who feel his case represents how some states like New Jersey have decimated the Second Amendment.

Frank Fiamingo, president of the New Jersey Second Amendment Society, calls New Jersey’s gun laws “irrational, convoluted, and damn-near impossible to follow.”

Fiamingo’s group had planned a large rally for Aitken tomorrow in Toms River, but it was canceled earlier this week when Aitken sent an e-mail insisting his name not be used in conjunction with the event. On Thursday, Aitken said the rally had become more focused on gun rights than the issues he had with his trial.

“When it comes down to it, it’s a due-process issue, not so much a Second Amendment issue,” he said.

The biggest problem with the trial, Aitken said, was former Superior Court Judge James J. Morley, who refused the jury’s requests to see New Jersey’s firearm exemption, which permitted weapons to be transported if the owner was moving. 

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