Jason Whitehead appeal
Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe announced today that the Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed the conviction of Jason Whitehead. Whitehead was found guilty of carrying a firearm without a license and carrying a firearm on school grounds.
The defendant was arrested after police were dispatched to Cape Cod Community College based on a report of ammunition inside a locked jeep in the school parking lot. The jeep had decals attached that said "Kill 'Em All Let God Sort it Out" and "Sniper No Need to Run-You'll Only Die Tired." There was also a funeral placard hanging from the rearview mirror.
Police observed a nine millimeter round, a .38 caliber round, and an empty nine millimeter shell casing in the jeep. The school was open at this time.
The defendant walked from the school to the jeep. He was wearing black and camouflage clothing. The officer found the defendant’s FID card in his wallet, indicating that he could carry ammunition. The officer read the defendant his Miranda rights, and said he was going to place him in the cruiser while he patted down the bag. The defendant then spontaneously said, "Wait, there's a loaded gun in there." The officer found a loaded Smith and Wesson 380 semiautomatic handgun loaded with 18 rounds, an ankle holster, and two additional magazines.
The defendant challenged Barnstable District court Judge Joan E. Lynch’s denial of the motion to suppress. The Appeals Court upheld Judge Lynch’s findings, stating that the officer was permitted to conduct a pat frisk and search of the backpack. The court noted the officers actions were permitted in the wake of recent school shootings at Columbine, Santee, and Newtown. The Appeals Court noted the legislature's concerns with preventing school violence, and stated that the defendant's FID card did not prevent the officer from investigating if there was a gun on school grounds.
The defendant was found guilty after a bench trial and sentenced to 2.5 years in the house of correction, 18 months to serve with the balance suspended for five years on the charge of carrying a firearm without a license. On the charge of carrying a firearm on school grounds the defendant was sentenced to 5 years probation with a stay away from Cape Cod Community College.
The motion and trial were handled by Assistant District Attorney Daniel T. Higgins. The appeal was written and argued by Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth A. Sweeney.