Saturday, November 15, 2008

The long Gort march continues

I had an interesting telephone conversation yesterday with an official of the Department of Public Safety for the City of Woodbury, Minnesota, regarding the administrative fate of Officer Jeffrey Gort, the cop who experienced a negligent discharge of a firearm in a St. Cloud, Minnesota hotel room on August 2, 2006. The background of the case, including my reasons for independently investigating it, are here.

Officer Gort was criminally charged with two misdemeanors in Stearns County Court, but by means of some apparently very mysterious and "unique" legal procedures was allowed to plead guilty by mail, avoiding taking responsibility for his dunderheaded actions in open court, like any other peasant would have had to do. In return for his mailed-in plea, Gort received a "continuance for dismissal", which basically means that if he manages to keep himself out of further trouble for a year (which has already just about passed), the charges will be removed from his record. In the words of one Minnesota legal professional,

"It was handled like a speeding ticket."

Only without the fine.

I'd like to see a Minnesota carry permit holder who found themselves in a similar set of circumstances manage to get anywhere near this level of consideration from the legal system. I daresay that I would shake their hand, because they would have just performed a minor miracle.

Because of the outcome in the criminal case, any punishment given Officer Gort for his actions would have to come from his employer, the Woodbury Police Department.

I have contacted the Woodbury Public Safety Department on several occasions, and they informed me each time that "final disposition" had not taken place in the investigation, and that they would contact me once official findings had been reached, and the course of action determined.

I recently sent an updated request for information in the case, as surely things had been "disposed" of by now, more than two full years after the incident, and almost a full year after the criminal case has been adjudicated, however unconventially it seems to have been handled?

Regretfully, it has not. The (friendly and helpful, to the degree that he was able to) official was unable to give me details, citing legal restrictions, but after hearing what he was able to tell me I inferred that Gort's union is going to the mat over this case, and is apparently attempting to drag the case out long enough to where everyone involved hopefully will throw up their hands in frustration and walk away from applying any administrative punishment. I got the impression that city officials are still hanging in there, but are increasingly pessimistic about the case ever being resolved fully.

The bottom line - Officer Gort is most likely going to get off scot-free for his criminally negligent behavior on the day in question, simply because of what he does for a living, which had nothing whatsoever to do with the circumstances of the case.

Minnesota carry permit holders, please note this case for future legal reference, in the event that one of you experiences a similar "boo-boo" sometime in the future (which most likely won't happen, as the rate of gun crimes and firearm accidents among law-abiding permit holders is so vanishingly low as to practically be nonexistent). It'll be interesting to compare the two cases and their outcomes, to see just how equal the justice is in your fair state.

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