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WNY Man Pleads Not Guilty to NY Safe Act Charge

11:04 PM, Mar 20, 2013   |    comments
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SILVER CREEK, N.Y. -- A man from Hanover in Chautauqua County pleaded not guilty Wednesday to criminal charges he faces under New York State's controversial new gun control law.

Benjamin Wassell is the first person to be arrested under the New York SAFE Act.

He's charged with three felonies and a misdemeanor after state police say he tried to sell two banned assault weapons to an undercover officer without requesting a background check.

The two incidents happened in Chautauqua County in January and February, according to the criminal complaint.

Wassell declined to comment in court Wednesday, but his attorney said he will rigorously defend his client.

"Ben (Wassell) is a good man," Defense Attorney Michael Deal said. "He's a good father. He served his country and sacrificed himself to do that in the course of that, and I don't think whatever happens in this case, that that shouldn't be forgotten."

A couple dozen people were in court to support Wassell and also to support the Second Amendment. Some said they had never even met Wassell but wanted to be in the courthouse due to the significance of this case.

"This law is a bad law," said Dan Devlin, a gun rights supporter. "And anytime you decide to take the ability to protect one's self away from the average citizen, we're wrong."

Wassell faces up to 7 years in prison if convicted on all the charges.

He will be back in Hanover Town Court at 2 p.m. on April 17.

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