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Army Vet Charged For Possession of Illegal Clip

7:18 PM, Feb 22, 2013   |    comments
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WATERTOWN, NY - Nate Haddad retired from active duty in the U.S. Army in 2010 (following 12 years of service) after he hurt his shoulder during special forces training.

Last month he says he was parked along a road not far from his home in the state's North Country, where he still works at Fort Drum as a civilian employee.

When approached by police, he told them he was meeting someone interested in perhaps buying from him some empty, 30-round magazines for an AR-15 rifle, the same type he once carried into combat.

Since 1994, however, magazines over 10 rounds have been illegal in New York State, unless they were manufactured prior to when that law went into effect.

"I certainly did not think I was committing a felony crime by having these," Haddad told WGRZ-TV, while speaking of the magazines, which he claims he bought at an army surplus store.

"My understanding of what I had in my possession was that it was manufactured before 1994, but the arresting officers told me otherwise after I showed them the magazines that I had in my possession," Haddad said.

Haddad now finds himself charged with five counts of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree, a Class D Felony in New York State punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Earlier this week, Jefferson County prosecutors offered Haddad a deal, according to Haddad's attorney Seth Buchman, who said the offer was for his client to plead to five misdemeanor counts, in exchange for which Haddad would get a conditional discharge, sparing him from incarceration.

Haddad turned down the offer.

"Even if I took that deal I would still be branded as a criminal, and I don't think I should be," Haddad said.

Beyond principle, though, there is also a practical reason behind Haddad's reluctance to plead guilty.

"At this point, I can't say for sure how doing so might impact my access to Fort Drum. If it were to be restricted, then I would likely lose my job," Haddad said.

The Jefferson County District Attorney's Office did not return a phone call seeking comment.

It is often said that the price for freedom is high.

Though that phrase is usually in reference to the waging of wars, it is applicable in Haddad's current battle to maintain his freedom.

Waging a defense in a criminal case is costly, and so Haddad's brother, who still lives in Chautauqua County, has started raising funds though an on-line site to defray the cost of Haddad's legal bills.

In just one-month's time, nearly $40,000 has been pledged toward an ultimate goal of $100,000.

"I am absolutely touched by the generosity of people who have donated anywhere from five dollars to even 300 dollars," Haddad said.

Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Bob Mancuso. Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2

WGRZ-TV, wgrz.com

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