Join Date: September 7, 2008
AZ gunstore owner's case dismissed
Another taxpayer funded frame-up exposed? Did the Feds got caught lying again? Anybody got more info? The guy probably got creamed financially, may be a lawsuit in this, I would think.
MARCH 20, 2009
Case Against Gun-Store Owner Dismissed
MORE IN LAW »
By JOEL MILLMAN
An Arizona court on Wednesday dismissed the case against a gun-store owner accused of looking the other way while front men purchased weapons to deliver to Mexico's drug cartels.
The trial, which began earlier this month, had been heralded as an example of U.S. authorities working to stanch the flow of weapons to Mexico, where a recent war among drug gangs is believed to have killed more than 6,000 people.
The case was dismissed against George Iknadosian, above, arrested on charges of knowingly selling guns to traffickers smuggling arms into Mexico.
At the heart of the case was the X-Caliber gun store, where prosecutors alleged more than 700 high-powered rifles were sold to purchasers whom the owner, 47-year-old George Iknadosian, should have known were acting as so-called straw buyers for Mexican customers. Sales of most weapons to non-U.S. citizens north of the border are severely constrained, as is gun possession by civilians in Mexico.
To get around those restrictions, Arizona officials alleged, Mr. Iknadosian allowed Arizonans with clean criminal records to buy weapons they would resell in Mexico, first by falsifying forms attesting that the firearms were for the purchasers' personal use. Witnesses in the case included several of these alleged straw buyers, who have pleaded guilty to charges that bring a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment.
Yet in dismissing the 21 counts against Mr. Iknadosian, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Robert Gottsfield ruled that the evidence prosecutors presented wasn't "material," and therefore didn't support charges against the defendant.
"The state's case is based upon testimony of individuals who [alleged]...that they were the actual purchaser of the firearms when they were not," Judge Gottsfield wrote. He then indicated that such testimony, by itself, failed to establish that any additional unlawful conduct transpired.
"There is no proof whatsoever that any prohibited possessor ended up with the firearm," the judge said.
To be considered "material," he explained, testimony about falsifying government forms must further demonstrate that the act "resulted in an unlawful person ending up with the guns, which has not been proven."
View Full Image
George Iknadosian's closed shop, X-Caliber Guns in Phoenix, was deserted in January.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, briefing reporters at the agency's Washington headquarters Wednesday, declined to comment on the ruling.
State and federal authorities, including a task force supervised by the Phoenix office of the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, worked for 11 months with local police building a case against X-Caliber. According to law-enforcement officials in Phoenix, the investigation included sending undercover agents posing as buyers to Mr. Iknadosian's shop, where agents not only purchased weapons, but boasted of plans to resell them in Mexico.
Authorities also relentlessly publicized the link between X-Caliber and Mexican drug cartels by claiming weapons purchased in Mr. Iknadosian's store had been recovered at Mexican crime scenes. One special weapon -- a handgun inlaid with $35,000 worth of diamonds -- purportedly was captured late last year after the assassination of a top Mexican policeman.
"We are all taking this pretty hard," said Anne Hilby, spokeswoman for Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard. Mr. Goddard released a statement disagreeing with Judge Gottsfield's analysis of the case, adding, "We are reviewing the ruling to determine how best to respond."
Messages left for Mr. Iknadosian's attorney and at the defendant's home weren't returned.