When more than 30 police officers in full tactical gear descended upon the house of a successful Washington, D.C., businessman with no criminal record last summer, they were looking for “firearms and ammunition … gun cleaning equipment, holsters, bullet holders and ammunition receipts,” The Washington Times reported.
But what did police find after they shut down the streets for blocks around Mark Witaschek’s Georgetown home, broke down a bathroom door with a battering ram and pulled his 16-year-old son out of the shower naked, pointed guns at the heads of Witaschek and his girlfriend, handcuffed them and then “tossed the place” for two hours?
Very little, according to the Times’ Emily Miller:
- “One live round of 12-gauge shotgun ammunition” — actually an inoperable shell that misfired during a hunt years earlier that Witaschek kept as a souvenir.
- “One handgun holster” — perfectly legal.
- “One expended round of .270 caliber ammunition” — a spent brass casing.
- “One box of Knight bullets for reloading,” according to police notation on the warrant. Except, Miller reveals, they aren’t for reloading — they’re for antique-replica, single-shot, muzzle-loading rifles.
And after all that, in the wake of a raid which Witaschek estimates resulted in $10,000 damage to his house, he faces two years in prison for possession of unregistered ammunition, the Times reported.
D.C. law requires residents to register every firearm with police, and only registered gun owners can possess ammunition, which includes spent shells and casings. The maximum penalty for violating these laws is a $1,000 fine and a year in jail, the Times noted.
While Witaschek has never had a firearm in Washington, D.C., Miller wrote that he’s being “prosecuted to the full extent of the law.” The trial starts Nov. 4.
More from the Times:
This was the second police search of his home. Exactly one month earlier, Witaschek allowed members of the “Gun Recovery Unit” access to search without a warrant because he thought he had nothing to hide.
After about an hour and a half, the police found one box of Winchester .40 caliber ammunition, one gun-cleaning kit (fully legal) and a Civil War-era Colt antique revolver that Witaschek kept on his office desk. The police seized the Colt even though antique firearms are legal and do not have to be registered.
Witaschek is a gun owner and an avid hunter. However, he stores his firearms at the home of his sister, Sylvia Witaschek, in suburban Arlington, Va.
Two weeks after the June raid, D.C. police investigators went to his sister’s house — unaccompanied by Virginia police and without a warrant — and asked to “view” the firearms, according to a police report. She refused. The next day, the D.C. police returned to her house with the Arlington County police and served her with a criminal subpoena.
The Office of Attorney General of the District of Columbia Irvin Nathan signed an affidavit on Aug. 21, 2012, in support of a warrant to arrest Witaschek. A spokesman for Nathan would not comment on a pending case. [...]
In September 2012, the attorney general offered Witaschek a deal to plead guilty to one charge of unlawful possession of ammunition with a penalty of a year of probation, a $500 fine and a contribution to a victims’ fund.
Witaschek turned down the offer. “It’s the principle,” he told me.