San Francisco, CA – An Army veteran and Dean’s List student who was prosecuted over a legally-registered, unloaded gun was found not guilty by a San Francisco jury Wednesday.
Jury members deliberated just 45 minutes before acquitting San Francisco resident Wayne Lee Banks Jr., 26, of carrying a concealed firearm in a vehicle. The misdemeanor charge carries up to a year in jail.
Banks, who has no criminal convictions, was arrested Oct. 9, 2009 following a contested traffic stop at Kearny and Clay streets. Officers stated in the police report that they immediately saw a handgun in a belt holster propped up against the center console.
“Despite officers describing the gun as immediately visible to justify the detention, Mr. Banks was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon. You can’t have it both ways. It’s not a magic gun,” said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Maria Lopez.
During the two day trial, Banks testified that he felt comfortable carrying a handgun for protection because of his Army training and understanding of gun laws. He also said how he likes to purchase PA-10 rifles, but knew better not to carry them around, which is why he opted for a smaller gun such as a registered handgun. Even though firearms carried openly in belt holsters are not considered concealed according to California Penal Code, Banks testified that he took the already visible belt holster off his hip and placed it further up on the driver’s seat against the armrest to ensure his unloaded gun was completely visible as he drove.
A sergeant and two officers from the San Francisco Police Department testified at the trial. Police also submitted photographs of Banks’ gun partially wedged into the corner of his seat. During cross examination by Lopez, however, the sergeant admitted that the photographs were taken after he had handled the gun and placed it in that position.
“The testimony and photographs were not consistent with the initial police report and there was tampering with the evidence,” Lopez said. “The jury couldn’t understand why this went to trial. Either a gun is concealed or it is not, and this gun clearly was not.”
Banks, a 4.0 student and track team member at San Francisco City College, plans to transfer to Morehouse College and feared a conviction could ruin his chances for financial aid and scholarships, Lopez said.
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi called the trial a waste of resources.
“Mr. Banks was extremely conscientious about following the laws surrounding gun ownership,” Adachi said. “Considering all the cases involving illegal weapons and gun violence, it’s difficult to understand why time and money was spent prosecuting Mr. Banks.”