Da'Quan Bowers could get leniency from New York authorities
Bucs defensive end Da’Quan Bowers faces two counts of a felony gun charge in New York, but several factors could result in a favorable resolution, say New York defense attorneys.
Bowers, who was arrested Monday morning at LaGuardia Airport for criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, told people close to him he unwittingly traveled to the city with the gun on Friday in a checked bag. When he alerted airline personnel about the weapon before departing Monday morning, he was arrested for the illegal possession because he lacked a New York license.
But if the weapon is legally owned in a different state and Bowers can show a lack of a criminal intent, he could get off with minimal discipline, attorneys said.
Also working in his favor: The jurisdiction. The Queens County District Attorney takes a more lenient approach to possession cases like Bowers’, according to attorneys.
“The state of New York doesn’t care what the federal law is or what other states’ laws are,” said attorney Jay K. Goldberg, who does not represent Bowers. “But the Queens DA has a very pragmatic approach if the gun is registered somewhere else.”
Bowers’ .40 caliber handgun is believed to be legally owned in South Carolina, his home state.
“It might not be that bad,” Goldberg added. “I’ve been very successful in Queens, in some cases even getting (charges) dismissed.”
Bowers' own attorney, Dennis Coppin of Bayside, N.Y., also expressed confidence things will work out, telling Bloomberg News, “After a full and fair investigation of the facts and circumstances regarding this registered firearm, Mr. Bowers will be fully exonerated.”
One of the keys to Bowers’ defense will be his ability to demonstrate how and why he had the gun in New York and whether he took steps to comply with laws governing how guns must be transported.
Bowers informed airport personnel of the weapon, according to the district attorney’s office. What’s less clear is whether he followed the proper protocol to transport it. The Transportation Security Administration permits firearms to be transported in checked baggage if they are “unloaded, packed in a locked hard-sided container, and declared to the airline at check-in,” according to the agency’s website.
“Queens gets a lot of airport cases, so if you can kind of go through the checklist of things you can get some leniency,” said New York attorney Elizabeth Crotty, who also is unaffiliated with Bowers’ case. “They always charge them with (criminal possession) but if it’s properly licensed, packaged and all those things, they’re reasonable.”
The circumstances surrounding Bowers' case make his distinctly different than that of former Giants receiver Plaxico Burress, who served 20 months in prison after a 2008 incident in which his illegally-possessed firearm discharged in a nightclub, shooting Burress in the leg.
"Comparing this case to Plaxico Burress' is grossly misleading," said Mark Bederow, a Manhattan defense attorney who is not working on Bowers' case. "(Burress) was drinking and was carrying the gun in a reckless manner (in his waist). This happens all the time. What happened to Burress does not happen all the time."
It’s become clear that Bowers’ situation is far from unique. With both major New York airports located in Queens (LaGuardia and JFK International), the district attorney there frequently sees cases involving out of state visitors who are charged with gun crimes.
“It really is incumbent upon the visitor to know the New York gun laws,” Goldberg said.
Said Crotty: “It happens a lot more than you might think. Is ignorance a defense? Not really. But it can be a factor” in resolving the case.
Given all that's known about the case, Bowers would be justified to feel optimistic.
"If everything we've heard is true, despite New York having the most draconian gun laws in the country, I would be shocked if this case resulted in any incarceration and it might result in no criminal action whatsoever," Bederow said.