TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A Pennsylvania corrections officer who says he was the victim of a car accident in New Jersey ended up facing charges himself when he told police he had a handgun.
Raymond Hughes told The Associated Press on Friday that he and his wife were on their way home from a concert and dinner in Atlantic City last month when the crash occurred in Glassboro.
He told police he had a handgun under his seat, and officers secured his personal 9mm Glock handgun while he went to the hospital, he said. But days later, he was charged with not having a New Jersey permit despite having a license to carry in neighboring Pennsylvania.
"I'm one of the good guys," Hughes said. "Now they're trying to make me one of the people I protect society from."
Hughes, 46, is the latest to be charged with carrying a gun legally owned in another state into New Jersey, which has strict limits on how and where weapons can be transported and doesn't recognize carry permits from other states.
Hughes's attorney, Evan Nappen, said Hughes faces a minimum of 3 ½ years in prison if he's convicted. Nappen said he's trying to get the charges dismissed, as well as a pardon from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Christie's office did not immediately comment on the matter.
Christie pardoned at least six people last year who had faced charges for carrying guns in New Jersey that they legally owned in other states. They included a Marine recruiter from Massachusetts whose unloaded 9mm handgun was found in the locked glove compartment of his truck after he was stopped for failing to use a turn signal.
The pardons came as Christie sought to counter his image among some Republican presidential primary voters that he was weak on gun rights. Christie dropped out of the presidential race this month.
The charges are being reviewed by the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office, which could dismiss the case or send it to a county grand jury, said spokesman Bernie Weisenfeld.
Hughes, of Brookhaven, said he's already been suspended from his job as a sergeant at a state prison in Chester. The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections confirmed that Hughes is an employee, but citing policy would not comment on whether he was suspended.
Nappen said a federal law designed to protect law enforcement officials in this kind of situation, the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, does not protect Hughes because, as a Pennsylvania corrections officer, he doesn't have powers of arrest.
The attorney said Hughes' case is a reason to amend the federal law and to change New Jersey's gun law.
Outgoing state Attorney General John Hoffman issued a directive in September 2014 that allows some of those charged under the strict New Jersey statute to be considered for pretrial intervention rather than jail time.
Hughes said even pretrial intervention could cost him his job based on Pennsylvania's policies for state employees.
"They're trying to make me into a criminal, basically, and I'm not a criminal," he said. "They're trying to take away everything I know how to be."
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