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.

NRA News on the Ung Case

I’ll be appearing on NRA News tonight tomorrow night (Wednesday) during the 9:40 segment to talk about the Gerald Ung case. Sirius 144 for those of you with Satellite Radio.

UPDATE: It’ll be tomorrow night, Wednesday 2/16 at 9:40. Sorry for the confusion… I misread Cam’s e-mail.

Jury to Ung: “Not Guilty”

See Above the Law for details as they come, but the Daily News is reporting an acquittal. I’ve often said we don’t have a justice system, we have a legal system. Well, sometimes it’s a justice system, and such was the case here. One of the great legal innovations of English Law was trial by jury, in which the people retain an important check on governmental power. It worked here. This case never should have been brought to trial, but it was, and the system worked. The only unfortunate thing is that Gerald Ung will now be helping make payments on Jack McMahon’s Porsche well into his 40s (I kid, I don’t even know if he has a Porsche, but Ung legal bills are going to be steep).

Ung will also likely need to defend against a civil case, which I’m sure his family will bring forward. It is very important that we pass Castle Doctrine quickly, so that Ung may have a chance of enjoying the civil immunities the bill brings. If you’d like to donate to his legal defense fund, you can find it here.

Ung’s Friends Testify

It is unfortunate, or perhaps fortunate, that the media has lost interest in reporting this case, but is still on it. We now have testimony from Ung’s friends, who were with him that day:

“My attention was on Eddie,” Afsarmanesctehrar testified. “It was going fast and out of control. I had a feeling he was coming at us. Just my personal feeling

“I was really scared. At the last moment there was no way we could stop these kids from coming.”

I have to hand it to both attorneys if they correctly pronounced that name every time :) More important I think is the testimony of the girlfriend that was with Ung.

Another defense witness, Joy Keh, who was with Ung and Afsarmanesctehrar, called DiDonato and his friends “a bloodthirsty gang.”

She said she was extremely fearful because “the white hat guy (Kelly) was about to sucker-punch Gerald’s blind side. I blocked him. They were screaming and being aggressive; they wouldn’t stop.

I heard (Kelly) scream, I’ll kill you; you’re dead.” Then she testified she screamed back, “Stop, you’re a good person!” She claimed he rushed them again.

I seem to recall that one of DiDonato’s friend testified that she was flirting with them. Id like to know what kind of flirting makes a girl fearful. As far as I’m concerned Gerald Ung should walk, just based on this. You have five drunk, beefy athletic young men against two smaller guys and a girl, and the group of five have said “I’ll kill you; you’re dead?” What are the elements of a strong case for self-defense?

  1. Ability? This means that the attackers have the means to inflict grave bodily injury or harm. Five guys that big can kill with their fists and feet, and more importantly can prevent flight.
  2. Opportunity? Opportunity means they are in a position to inflict such force. They were in the process of rushing Ung. Ung was armed. He stupidly had told them so. Once the gun came out, he was charged by one of the parties. The party did not break the attack once the gun was displayed.
  3. Jeopardy? This means that the attackers were acting in a manner where a reasonable person might assume they have intent to inflict grave bodily injury or harm. You have that right here: “I’ll kill you; you’re dead.” I’m not going to demand Ung find out whether they are kidding or not, especially when they do not break off the attack when the party being attacked is known to be armed.

I don’t think Ung had a choice if he didn’t want to end up in the hospital at the least. Maybe he did make a crack that provoked the five young men. That was his mistake. But that’s not an invitation to beat someone. The only thing left is whether he violated a duty to retreat. Ung was in the process of retreating when it escalated to physical violence. By the time he was being physically attacked, the girl was engaged with the guy in the white hat, and Ung was engaged with three other men. The law requires that all members of the party be capable of retreating to complete safety.

If Ung is found guilty, I’ll read the transcripts before I render final judgement. Some key bit of information might be missing from this testimony, and we only have bits and pieces. But from what I see here if he is found guilty it’ll be one travesty of justice. The others will be that DiDonato and his friends haven’t been charged with simple assault yet.

Self-Defense Case in Maryland

This is many gun control advocates ideal law of self-defense. A man shoots another man who allegedly broke down his door, faces 2nd degree murder charges:

The state has charged Matthew Pinkerton with 2nd Degree Murder. Their sole basis for this charge is that he should have called 911.

Here’s the original news article that came out after the shooting. It looks like this started as a domestic situation. If the facts here are true as presented, I doubt they’ll find a jury that will convict this guy, and it will be a disgrace that he was made to undergo the cost and mental anguish of a trial.

Legal costs for the Pinkerton family have been mounting. According to Michael, “they already had to take out a loan for 25k to get him out on bond” and “now is lawyer fees are another 25k; all for defending his home and family.”

That said, I’d like to see the Bill of Indictment, Information, or the Bill of Particulars his attorney has filed for if you look the case up online. I do believe that prosecutors can often be overzealous, and prosecute in cases that are legitimate self-defense. The Gerald Ung case comes to mind in Philadelphia. But prosecutors generally don’t like to take hopeless cases to trial. If the facts are as presented, this a likely loss in a jury trial. I’m willing to be outraged, but I suspect there’s more to this case than is being told, and I’d like all the facts before passing full judgement. But I agree on the surface, this doesn’t look good. If anyone can find me public records that describe the particulars, I’d be grateful.

In a Defensive Shooting

Your first call should be to your lawyer. Reading over this post over at Tam’s, one thing strike me: if there’s one lesson to learn from the Zimmerman case, your next call should probably be to a PR firm. We’ve seen two cases recently, Gerald Ung and now George Zimmerman, where the parents of the shootee have hired PR firms and made life a living hell for the the shooter.

They used to say the first person to call 911 is generally the victim. Now it’s probably accurate to say the first person to hire a PR firm to start setting the narrative in the media is probably the victim.

Test of Pennsylvania Castle Doctrine

Pretty recently, we got ourselves some castle doctrine and stand your ground here in Pennsylvania too. The Allentown Morning Call is reporting on a story that presents a test of the new law. Prosecutors said even if the law hadn’t changed, they probably still would have declined to prosecute. What tends to steady a prosecutors hands is that juries are generally more forgiving of crime victims dispatching their attackers than prosecutors tend to be. I’ve said previously that all stand your ground really does is make the law reflect what juries tend to do anyway. It honestly doesn’t change that much, but it does pull some options off the table for a prosecutor who doesn’t like self-defense that just wants to nail someone. Think about the Gerald Ung case for a minute. Duty to retreat didn’t play a role there (Ung was retreating when he was attacked), but would you really want to give prosecutors an extra tool to go after someone who committed legitimate self-defense? Bet their future that the Jury will do the right thing anyway? Make them pay six figure legal fees to go to trail because the powers that be in a big city don’t like the plebes to be able to have guns to defend themselves? Castle Doctrine laws are more a statement of principle than a desire to fix an actual problem, and I think most people agree with the principle it states.

Speaking of the Pennsylvania law, our arch nemesis (every blog should have an arch nemesis!), Max Nacheman of CeaseFirePA, is busy misrepresenting self-defense laws, the Martin case, and pooping all over due process on Public Radio here in Pennsylvania. I thought the attorney, Peter Georgiades, on our side, did an excellent job. Max Nacheman is pretty clearly not a legal expert, and it was enjoyable to see him go up against someone that was. Give it a listen. It’s worth 24 minutes if your time.

Shooting by Florida CHL Holder

Our opponents are all over this story from Florida, where a white captain of a neighborhood watch got into a tussle with a black teenage male, and through circumstances that have not yet come to light, and are still being investigated by police, he ended up shooting and killing the 17 year old, who was unarmed. Needless to say, because of the racial implications here, all sense and reason will go out the window. I don’t really have any statement as to whether the guy is a murderer or not, because all the facts are not in. This is a case that, to me, looks very similar to Gerald Ung, except that was a crowd of white guys trying to beat up an Asian guy. This is one black teenage male against a white male in his 20s. But unlike Ung, it looks like George Zimmerman took blows before resorting to deadly force, and unlike Zimmerman, Ung had multiple attackers. Generally speaking, you can more easily claim self-defense using deadly force against multiple, armed attackers than you can a single, unarmed attacker.

I’m not an expert in Florida’s self-defense law, but it is a castle doctrine state, which means there’s not a duty to retreat. Traditionally, under common law, you were justified in using deadly force to stop commission of a felony. It was not only justified, at the time it was considered a civic duty to do so. In the case of an affray between two law abiding people, which is the case here, you were required to retreat before resorting to deadly force.

Given the circumstances, I think it’s likely this guy’s case will go before a grand jury. I would not be surprised if the grand jury hands down a bill if the facts surrounding the affray and shooting are in dispute. This case reminds me of the Joe Horn case, who ended up no billed by a Texas Grand Jury. Generally, to be able to claim you killed in self-defense against an unarmed person, you would have to prove that there was a force disparity. If Zimmerman was on the ground and getting bloodied, a force disparity is going to be a lot more believable to a jury. But there are some lessons here, regardless of the outcome of the case:

  • Zimmerman was following the kid, on the phone with 911, saying the kid looked suspicious. There’s not any facts that have come out to indicate what was suspicious, other than a black teenager walking through a predominately white, wealthy neighborhood. The 911 dispatch told him not to confront the kid, and wait for the police. He should have heeded that advice. We carry guns for self-defense, we’re not cops. It would have been one thing if he was stopping a robbery, but questioning “suspicious” people is a job for the police.
  • You need to have options all the way up and down the force continuum. You don’t want your only option to be fists and deadly force.
  • You never want to be in a position where you initiate the confrontation that leads to a shooting. The law and juries frown on that, and for justifiable reasons. I would not be surprised at all if the grand jury hands down a bill of indictment and this goes to trial based on this fact alone.
  • There’s nothing unmanly about running away from a fight. If you’re armed, you should run away from a fight. Ask yourself whether you’d rather deal with having run away, or whether you want to deal with six figure legal fees for shooting someone? Or worse, end up in prison. The law says you have no duty to retreat. That doesn’t mean retreat isn’t a good idea.

So that’s my two cents. I think this case is going to trial, personally. But we’ll see. Depends on what facts are made public once the police investigation is over. It’ll be really surprised if it doesn’t at least go to a grand jury. Zimmerman never should have confronted the kid, and I’ll be really curious as to what objective behavior was making him a suspicious person. If it was a case of the kid being black in a white neighborhood, that’s really going to look bad to a jury, and it should.

UPDATE: Looks like a witness is talking to the media here. If he was down on the ground getting pummeled, unable to disengage from the fight, that’s going to point more favorably to self-defense. Sucks for the family, but one way to avoid your kids getting shot is to teach them it’s wrong to beat people up.

Weekly Tab Clearing

I meant to do this yesterday, but we were busy making a prime rib dinner for our collective parentage. I figured I’d start doing a tab clearing every weekend, since I let a lot of interesting posts go that I just never get around to making a post about before they get stale. So here we go:

The FBI notes that paying for coffee in cash is a sign of a terrorist. Thirdpower notes that certain books, model rocketry, or interest in paintball are also indicators.

Dr. Helen has now moved over to PJ Media.

Clayton Cramer has an interesting bit on the use of knives in crime.

In Philly, an argument over dog crap results in a shooting. The shooter was an LTC holder. Charges are being files, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t self-defense, as we remember the case of Gerald Ung, which was clearly self-defense, and yet the city prosecuted anyway.

Clayton Cramer notices that an Indian Nation is suing an alcohol company for alcoholism among the tribe, which sounds an awful lot like suing gun manufacturers over high crime.

Larry Keane of NSSF gets an opinion piece printed int he Washington Post regarding the demise of Virginia’s gun rationing scheme.

Robb has a new toy to play with.

Uncle thinks the reason states like Virginia don’t want to pass permit privacy is because the GOP likes to use the database for political purposes. This is probably true. I know the GOP in Pennsylvania would love to get their hands on such a list (because some have asked) but it’s private data here already.

Grave Bodily Injury or Harm

Thirdpower has a picture of the Vietnam Veteran who was beat within an inch of his life in Philly (Warning, the picture is graphic). The question for those in the City is whether you want to end up like this, or end up flushing your life savings down the toilet fighting the attempted murder charge that’s sure to come from City prosecutors if you use deadly force on a gang of feral teenagers. I should also note some recent news that Gerald Ung is now facing a civil suit from his attacker. Castle Doctrine should prevent this, but since this attack happened before that law went into effect, I’m not sure that can be grounds for dismissing the suit. Ung’s attacker is also suing some of the bars that served them alcohol, including Eulogy Belgian Tavern, one of my favorite haunts in the City.

The real solution is to avoid Philadelphia. You get your life ruined either way; the only question is whether or not you want to walk away with all your brain cells intact, and without the need to seek major surgery. Unfortunately, we live in a society where no one is responsible for their own actions anymore, and we can hardly tolerate consequences for thuggish behavior if it involves good people defending themselves.

UPDATE: From the article at “Above the Law”:

Good luck getting punitive damages — or any damages at all, for that matter — out of Gerald Ung. As noted above by one of our sources, Ung is presumably judgment proof. His criminal defense lawyer at trial, renowned defense attorney Jack McMahon, won a nice acquittal for him — but it probably cost Ung a pretty penny. As we wrote at the time of the acquittal, “the services of Jack McMahon don’t come cheap. The Ungs easily owe McMahon six figures.”

Ung’s prize for his successful self-defense will be debt up to his eyeballs to Jack McMahon for, quite likely, the rest of his life. I do hope Ung is good at law and becomes a successful attorney. He may have a chance at paying off his debt quickly. For some poor Joe Sixpack who drives a truck for a living, what do you think his options are?

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