An outspoken gun rights advocate was found guilty Monday of refusing orders to leave the plaza in front of Spokane’s federal courthouse during a February protest. Anthony Bosworth was armed at the time.
Bosworth will be sentenced Nov. 10 in the case, which has prompted multiple protests in what activists see as overzealous gun regulations by federal authorities. He faces a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail for the misdemeanor. His attorney, David Stevens, said he was considering an appeal.
U.S. Magistrate Judge John T. Rodgers, in a bench trial with no jury, found that Bosworth violated a federal law that requires notice that the offender has run afoul of gun restrictions at federal facilities. Bosworth’s attorney argued that a statement made by arresting officials was not enough, that there should be signs proclaiming a weapons ban.
“I believe Congress has clearly intended that they wanted signs,” Stevens said. He referred to a sandwich board that is placed outside the federal courthouse in Tacoma prohibiting guns.
Bosworth, who has attended rallies in support of gun rights throughout Washington, attended a protest Feb. 25 championing the rights of states. He was carrying a rifle and pistol when approached by U.S. marshals and court security, who told him he was violating a law prohibiting firearms at federal court facilities.
His wife, Maria Bosworth, filmed the encounter. She testified Monday that she did so to protect him.
“I had a feeling that something could go wrong,” she said.
There weren’t signs on the plaza indicating guns were prohibited, which meant the orders from federal law enforcement to leave weren’t lawful, Stevens said.
“He was compliant,” Stevens said of Bosworth. “He just wasn’t compliant with, perhaps, the swiftness they required.”
Matthew Duggan, representing the U.S. attorney’s office, said Bosworth’s interpretation of the law, and whether he was attempting to leave the plaza when arrested, were unimportant.
“We’ve heard testimony from him saying, ‘I intended to leave,’ or ‘I planned to leave,’ but he never did it,” Duggan said.
Bosworth is Stevens’ second local client who faced criminal charges after being armed. Gail Gerlach, who shot and killed a man during an apparent vehicle theft attempt in March 2013, was acquitted of manslaughter charges while represented by Stevens.
Federal prosecutors offered Bosworth a $50 ticket as a settlement of the case, Stevens said.
“My client said, ‘I’d rather hang,’” Stevens said.
About a dozen supporters joined the Bosworths in Rodgers’ courtroom. Mike Ormsby, the U.S. attorney for Eastern Washington, was also present as the verdict was read.
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich had been requested to testify as a defense witness, but Stevens elected not to call him to the stand.
Knezovich said Monday he had “little involvement” with the case.
“There was a discussion on if the law extended to the courtyard,” Knezovich said. “My comment was, if there’s any doubt, it would probably be a good thing to just drop it and move on.”
Another group, some of them armed, demonstrated on the plaza throughout the morning.
Rosanna M. Peterson, chief judge for the Eastern District of Washington, signed an order in March, shortly after Bosworth’s arrest, extending the gun-free zone on the courthouse campus to the courtyard. That order was rescinded a month later.
As of Monday afternoon, there were no signs on the courthouse plaza prohibiting guns. Bosworth’s weapons remain in custody of authorities.
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