Trial for Gerald Ung Begins

You might remember the shooting that was caught on a Fox News studio surveillance camera a year or so ago. Quite a number of people thought this looked like a legitimate case of self-defense. Gerald Ung’s trial for attempted murder is now underway.

Assistant District Attorney Jan McDermott told the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court trial that the evidence will show that Ung, a native of Fairfax, Va., became infuriated when DiDonato and his three friends appeared to be flirting with Ung’s female companion.

“Don’t . . . me off,” McDermott said, quoting Ung. “What he was saying was, ‘I got a gun, I’m a man and I’ll show you.’ “

Gun people need to watch this trial carefully, because this is going to be instructive about what you can expect to go through if you shoot someone who doesn’t have a weapon.

Already we have a key mistake on the part of Ung. Verbal command should be telling them to back off, not “Don’t piss me off.” If they don’t respond to verbal commands, you should have some kind of less-than-lethal option to go to. If they produce a weapon or start to attack you, go to the gun. In Ung’s case, from what can be seen in the video, he did not produce a firearm until he was being attacked, and it appeared to me he was in the process of retreating.

Force disparity should be easy here. Multiple attackers on one person doesn’t leave you with a lot of choices if you don’t want to end up in a hospital. The key question will be whether Gerald Ung created the circumstances that lead to him having to use deadly force. I would imagine the testimony of Ung’s girlfriend is going to be key in this, because it’s hard to imagine a jury is going to convict someone of attempted murder if he was trying to protect his girlfriend from unwanted harassment by a group of drunken men.

UPDATE: Much more information here. I still don’t see anything yet that defeats the self-defense claim.

UPDATE: Prior link has been updated with more testimony:

“The defendant resisted handcuffs and wouldn’t give the gun to the police. They had to pull their guns to get his gun. Use every day common sense and watch and listen.”

Bad move. This will greatly complicate Ung’s defense.

12 thoughts on “Trial for Gerald Ung Begins”

  1. While I do not know the particulars of this case, It does serve as a good reminder that we who choose to go armed need to be extra careful where we go, using reasonable caution to avoid those places where encounters like this are more likely to happen.

  2. What’s in the video doesn’t look like “flirting” to me – she appeared to be trying to get away from them, and they were harassing her physically. It seems clear early on that they both were trying to get away from the assailants.

    At the point where they switch camera views, one of the assailants seems to be pushing or grabbing his girlfriend – which is when Ung rushes in. That’s when they rush at him, he pulls his gun and then starts to back away. He doesn’t fire until the “victim” (what media bias?) – who rushed at a man pointing a gun at him – makes physical contact.

    Barring any other evidence to the contrary, it looks like a clean shoot to me – no matter what he may have said beforehand. That DA needs to pull his head out and drop the charges. I assume he’s just anti-gun and lashing out at someone who dared to defend himself and his girlfriend in his city.

    Already we have a key mistake on the part of Ung. Verbal command should be telling them to back off, not “Don’t piss me off.”

    Is that actually what he said, or is the DA presenting what the “victim” and his friends claim he said?

    I don’t believe that what the girlfriend says will be as important as you think – the twit and his friends are going to be saying something else, and it’s clear the DA will be trying to push that story on the jury (since that’s the one he seems to believe) and make the girlfriend appear to be lying to protect Ung. I think the fact that the video shows him trying to back off after he pulls the gun, combined with the apparent physical harassment it shows, is going to count more than anything else.

  3. We just have to keep spreading the gospel of jury nullification until it becomes nearly impossible for prosecutors to secure convictions in these sorts of cases. If 10% of the population supported nullifying bullshit like this, prosecutors would not even try anymore.

  4. When I first starting reading these articles today, I was more of the mind set that Ung had a good chance of clearing his name. However, now as I read the testimony on the latest link that you have provided, the “heart strings” positioning of DiDonato and the Philly DA, IMHO will start turning the jury against Ung.

    Philly is basically a “blue” town and putting this “shooting vicitm” (note this is the Inquirer’s opinion only!) up on the stand, claiming “I didn’t do anything, I was only holding my friend back” may resonate with these people on the jury.

    Even assuming the law is on Ung’s side throughout the trial, the law may not shine through to these people. Instead, putting up a “physically rehabbed victim” on the stand may do more than the law. Its important to note, that certainly the law counts in cases like these but also where the trial is held.

  5. I was also rooting for Ung. From the video, he had every reason to be afraid for his life facing four drunk men. I hope it works out for him.

    Have they released the BAC (blood alcohol) of Ung and the lacrosse players? That alone should be interesting and may sway the case.

    The ‘resisting arrest’ claim doesn’t look good, but that’s a prosecution opening statement so take it with a grain of salt.

    Thanks for keeping an eye on this case Sebastian.

  6. One other detail from second article – the cop Ung resisted sounds like he was off-duty working the door at a nightclub.

    Ung has a pretty good attorney in Jack McMahon – former local prosecutor who specializes in murder cases.

  7. Sebastian,

    Nullification can be used as a tool to change the way laws are applied.

    The jury could nullify the prosecutor’s decision to go forward with charges in the first place. If this happened frequently enough, prosecutors wouldn’t bother anymore.

  8. Seconding what was said above–I wouldn’t necessarily believe what DiDonato said about Ung. Nor would I necessarily believe Ung resisted arrest, if they shoved him against a wall suddenly, he might have done something defensive out of instinct, especially if the cop was in plain clothes.

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