Many emergency first responders have lives outside of the rescue business. They work in many fields but keep their response equipment in their vehicles. When they receive a call, they hit the road to rescue and save lives. But one first responder has spent nearly two weeks in jail and is now facing felony weapons charges because he had a knife in his rescue vest that was locked in his car.
Jordan Wiser, 18, is a certified emergency vehicle operator and is training to be a firefighter with the local fire department. His is also a first responder to emergency calls, but that could all be over now for him. Why? Because Wiser is also a high school student at Ashtabula County Technical and Career Campus in Jefferson, Ohio and his car was on campus when officials searched it and found his knife.
Someone told the administrators that they had viewed videos that Wiser had uploaded to You Tube. The videos he uploaded dealt with reviews of video games, lessons on self-defense tactics and an interview with a police officer. Something in what the snitch told campus administrators caused them enough alarm to search Wiser’s locked vehicle.
They discovered two Airsoft pellet guns locked in his trunk. Wiser told them that he was headed to participate in sports after school. They also found a stun gun that was locked his glove box and he explained to officials that it was for self-defense only. Wiser’s major offense was the pocket knife they found in his first responders vest that contained a number of other items used in rescues.
Wiser was arrested and sent to jail for 13 days for carrying a weapon on campus grounds. Under Ohio state law, Wiser’s possession of the pocket knife on school property is a felony. It doesn’t matter that it was locked in his car and was part of his emergency first responder’s equipment. Being charged with a weapons felony would prevent Wiser from pursuing his dream of working with the fire department where he would be putting his life on the line to save and rescue others.
Harold Specht, Ashtabula County Assistance Prosecutor, said they have no intention of dropping the felony charges against Wiser. He stated:
“We charge [people] with everything that we feel they are guilty of, and in this case, he is guilty of a felony. I know that there’s a load of people out here that just think we’re the devil because we’re allegedly ruining this young kid’s life, and that’s not the case at all.”
My question to Specht is how would he feel if he or a member of his family was involved in an auto accident and Wiser was the first responder, arriving straight from school. The vehicle starts to burn and he or his family member is trapped and Wiser reaches for his pocket knife to cut the seat belt, but the knife isn’t there because of the state law. Wiser has nothing else to cut the durable seat belt with and he has no recourse but to back off as flames engulf the car, horribly killing everyone inside.
This isn’t just some made up scenario as this happens to first responders more than you think. When gas tanks rupture or cars are flipped and gas starts leaking out, a fire can ignite and spread very rapidly. First responders may only have seconds to act to save the life of the person trapped inside the vehicle. If they can’t get the victim(s) out fast enough or put the fire out, there isn’t much else that the rescuer can do.
But did you know that a jury could determine that the law should not apply in this case and find Wiser innocent of all charges? It’s called jury nullification. You will never find a judge or any court official that will admit to a jury that they have the legal right to declare a law unjust or invalid in special circumstances if they so choose. If word of that got out, just imagine what might take place in courtrooms around the nation.
Hopefully at least one member of the jury that will hear Wiser’s case will be aware of the legal rights of jurors and get the rest of the jury to invoke jury nullification in his case and set him free. Residents of Ashtabula County also need to remember Jordan Wise’s case when they go to polls and see that Nicholas Iarocci, county prosecutor is running for re-election.