Decorated Marine veteran fighting for his freedom after mandatory gun sentence in New Jersey

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Jim Hoffer has the story

A decorated Marine veteran is fighting for his freedom after his arrest on gun charges in New Jersey.

Even though the firearm was legal, it was not registered in that state. The convicted man, Hisashi Pompey, has asked Gov. Chris Christie to step in.

To combat gang violence, New Jersey lawmakers several years ago tacked on mandatory sentences for gun-related offenses.

No longer does a person have to be in the process of committing a crime with a gun to end up behind bars. Simply possessing an unpermitted gun in the state can make someone a felon and a prisoner.

Pompey served as a Marine military police sergeant in three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, for which he received medals for bravery.

He has a wife and young children whom he may have to leave again -- not to serve his country but to serve three years behind bars.

"We're all humans. Humans make mistakes," Pompey said.

Six years ago, during a visit to New Jersey, then-Sgt. Pompey was at a Fort Lee nightclub when his friend got involved in a fight, grabbed Pompey's gun out of his holster and carried it into a confrontation with police.

No shots were fired. The friend was arrested but so was Pompey. While his gun was legally registered in Virginia, he had no New Jersey permit. Police charged him with unlawful possession of a handgun.

"I'm not a troublemaker. I don't cause trouble. I don't do anything bad. It was just a common mistake that I made," said Pompey.

Next week, the former Marine sergeant who has lost an appeal of his conviction must surrender to New Jersey authorities to begin a three-year-mandatory prison term. His only recourse now lies with Christie, whom Pompey has petitioned for a pardon.

"Only help I am asking for is from the governor -- that's the only one. Everyone from judges to lawyers say the only person who will help me now is the governor," said Pompey.

Christie's office has declined to comment on Pompey's clemency petition.

"As a matter of policy, the governor's office does not comment on or publicly discuss any such petition filed with the office," a spokesman told WABC-TV

"It's completely discretionary with the governor. He doesn't have to say or do anything," said Pompey's attorney, Evan Nappen.

The lawyer said putting Pompey behind bars would be a waste of taxpayers' money, accomplishing nothing while ruining a good man's life.

"He goes into state's prison next week, where he will do three years minimum before he could even get parole," said Nappen. "This is a man who has done two tours in Afghanistan, a tour in Iraq.

"The only hope is for Gov. Christie to exercise his power of pardon," Nappen added. "Gov. Christie in the past has stepped up and helped worthy individuals, and it's my hope and prayer that he does the same for Sgt. Pompey."

If Christie does not pardon Pompey, the veteran will have to surrender to New Jersey authorities on Monday.

Because his weapons charge falls under the state's Graves Act, the judge has no discretion in sentencing.
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