Posted: 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013
By David Fucillo
A day after we heard that Aldon Smith and Delanie Walker were named in a lawsuit surrounding the party at Smith's place last year, we have more news. The San Jose Mercury News is now reporting that Aldon Smith could potentially face criminal charges of possessing illegal assault rifles.
According to the report, the guns in question were first discovered last year after the party went haywire. Smith apparently bought the guns legally in Arizona, but failed to modify them to comply with stricter California gun laws.
The Santa Clara District Attorney's Office appears to be in a bit of a bind where they are concerned about looking soft on the rich and famous. As the Mercury News report discusses, the DA had to deal with fallout from the Ahmad Brooks case, but also from another case involving a "real estate mogul."
The risk in the Smith case, the sources said, is that in an effort to avoid the appearance of giving the linebacker special treatment, prosecutors may wind up treating him more harshly than they would someone who isn't a celebrity.
That's because Smith isn't just a suspect -- he's also a victim and a key witness in the stabbing and shooting cases against the gang members. Prosecutors often decline to charge such witnesses with relatively minor crimes.
Smith apparently admitted firing one of the weapons in the air in self defense after he had been shot at and stabbed. Given that this is discussing a possessions charge, none of that is quite as much a concern as simply owning the guns.
The article describes the issue of specific intent. As they point out, possession of an assault weapon is a specific intent crime, which requires the DA prove that Aldon Smith knew or should have "reasonably known" the guns were illegal. This is harder to prove than a general intent crime, which merely requires committing the action. The Merc wrote that the DA has investigators looking into whether Smith left the state on purpose to make the weapons purchases. That would be a key aspect of any prosecution.
The crime can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, which means a range of punishments from probation to jail time. We'll see if he is charged, and if so, if he pleads out. There is likely some serious political pressure involved with the DA's office. That does not bode well for Aldon, but at the same time, his situation would seem to make this a difficult case to prove at trial.