By RICHARD WEATHERINGTON
Investigations that begin in one direction can unexpectedly turn in another, as a pawnbroker recently found out.
In May 2005, a man whose first name was Wayman took a pistol, owned jointly with his wife, to a Kansas pawnshop. Wayman asked the pawnbroker if he could pawn the gun despite a prior felony conviction on his record.
By law, the broker was able to accept a gun from any person over 18 years of age but would only be able to return the gun to a person passing a law enforcement check. The broker therefore told Wayman that he could pawn the gun but that he would not be able to retrieve it.
Wayman then asked if he could pawn the gun in the name of his wife, Linda, so she could retrieve it. The pawnbroker agreed to this arrangement.
Wayman then called his wife at work for permission to list her name and to get her Social Security Number. She agreed to list the pawn in her name and provided the information.
While filling out the pawn form, Wayman inadvertently listed an incorrect date of birth for Linda, accidentally checked the box for “black” despite Linda being “white,” and then signed her name. Later, Linda retrieved the gun while Wayman was present.
Wayman took the pistol back to the pawnshop in June. He again followed the earlier procedure, pawning the gun in Linda’s name with her permission. When filling out the pawn report, he again called Linda for her Social Security Number. He incorrectly listed a different date of birth for Linda, checked the box for “black” but then scratched it out and checked “white,” and signed the form in his own name.
State statute and city ordinance required pawnshop owners to provide certain information, including pawn tickets, to law enforcement. A city police officer regularly reviewed pawn tickets and entered them into a database.
In July, the officer encountered the June pawn ticket filled out with Linda’s information but signed by Wayman. He noticed the incorrect date of birth for Linda, the change from “black” to “white,” and Wayman’s signature rather than Linda’s. Following his supervisor’s order, he passed the ticket to a detective for investigation.
The detective asked the pawnbroker who pawned the gun, and he said Linda had pawned it because Wayman could not be in possession of the gun. The detective asked for the pawn contract, which was separate from the pawn ticket.
The top of the pawn contract was made out to Wayman’s wife, and the detective asked why Wayman’s name was on the pawn ticket and pawn contract when Linda had pawned the gun, and the pawnbroker replied, “Well, that is just the way we keep track of it.”
The detective spoke with Wayman and Linda about the matter. Linda admitted retrieving the gun in May in connection with the first pawn, and Wayman admitted he had pawned the gun using his wife’s information for both the May and June pawns.
The conversation ended with Wayman and Linda agreeing to fill out witness statements at the police station.
Later that afternoon, the detective returned to the pawnshop and spoke again with the broker. The detective was still investigating whether Wayman was in unlawful possession of a firearm.
Wanting to find out why the broker’s initial account conflicted with Wayman’s story, he asked the broker “one last time” who pawned the gun. The detective characterized the broker’s response as “sketchy” because it now included Wayman being present, leaving to bring Linda to the shop, and then Linda waiting outside. The broker said that he was unsure whether Wayman or Linda filled out the forms. When pressed, the broker terminated the conversation.
As his investigation continued, the detective learned that Wayman could legally possess the gun because the time period prohibiting his possession of a firearm had expired. Accordingly, no charges were filed against him.
The pawnbroker was charged with three counts of making a false information and two counts of felony obstruction of an official duty arising out of the firearm pawns.
The two felony obstruction counts filed against the broker, Counts IV and V, were based on his two conversations with the detective. The underlying felony for Count IV was criminal possession of a firearm; the underlying felony for Count V was making a false information.
Before the district judge submitted the case to the jury, he dismissed Count IV. The jury convicted the broker on the remaining counts.
The broker appealed to the Kansas Court of Appeals, which reversed all but the conviction on Count V. The broker appealed that conviction to the Kansas Supreme Court.
The court granted his petition for review on the obstruction conviction and denied the state’s cross petition for review of the false information convictions. On appeal, the pawnbroker argued that there was no legal basis for the charge under Kansas law. The Supreme Court noted that the resolution of the issue required statutory interpretation.
In reviewing a statute, said the Supreme Court, “the fundamental rule to which all other rules are subordinate is that the intent of the legislature governs if that intent can be ascertained.”
This is a condensed version of a story that appeared in the Summer 2010 issue of Today’s Pawnbroker. To read the entire story, subscribe to Today’s Pawnbroker magazine.