JEFFERSON, OH — A young man’s future may potentially be shattered after he was charged with the victimless act of keeping a pocketknife in his vehicle while at school. So far he’s been kicked out of school, spent 13 days in jail, been given a psych evaluation, and tracked with an electronic ankle bracelet. A felony conviction could cause him to spend up to a year behind bars, and derail all of his career aspirations in public service.
Jordan Wiser, 18, wanted to work for the government his whole life. He worked as a volunteer fireman and EMT, and was enrolled in classes to further that path. He had already joined the Army with a scheduled start date in August. Some day he intended to become a police officer. He says that he’s been in the public service field since he was 14-years-old.
All of that was jeopardized on December 12th, 2013, when he got caught up by a draconian zero-tolerance weapons policy at his school. One day at school he was aggressively confronted about possessing weapons.
Searched at School
“The principal said he had reason to believe I had weapons in my vehicle and needed to search it,” Wiser said. “He made me empty out all my pockets, and the vice principal grabbed me and patted me down very forcibly. It was somewhat awkward. Then they took my car keys. I told them what was in my car and said, ‘Don’t be alarmed.'”
Mr. Wiser believes he was singled out after an unknown person circulated a photograph as a malicious prank. It was Wiser’s image next to Seung-Hui Cho — the deceased Virginia Tech shooter.
Despite not consenting to any searches, his vehicle was searched by force. Officials were intent on proving that he had intentions of mass murder. They tore apart his belongings, making several discoveries: some common items that are owned by millions of people all over the country, yet are arbitrarily restricted in “school safety zones.”
Officials found a pocketknife which Mr. Wiser kept in his EMT jacket that he used as a firefighter. They found stun-gun in his glove compartment which he keeps for self-defense. And they found two plastic Airsoft rifles in his trunk which he uses for sporting purposes with his friends after school.
To the young firefighter, these were ordinary items he was never far away from. But in the eyes of the school and the local prosecutor — these were deadly threats to public safety.
A-Tech’s principal called the Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Department, and deputies came and arrested Mr. Wiser. He was charged with “illegal conveyance or possession of deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance or of object indistinguishable from firearm in school safety zone.” The charge is a Class 5 felony. It carries a jail sentence of 6-12 months.
Wiser was immediately locked up. His ordeal would only get stranger when he came under the rule of the local judges. The first was Judge Robert S. Wynn, who ordered a psych evaluation.
“I was in jail for almost 13 days,” Wiser said. “The first bond hearing I went to was on December 15. The judge ordered me [to be] held on a half million-dollar bond, pending a psychological evaluation. I did that and passed. They found I was not suicidal, homicidal or a threat to anybody. My attorney brought it up in front of a different judge, who let me out on a $50,000 bond and an ankle monitor. I was released from jail on Christmas Eve.”
Insult to Injury
Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Department procured a search warrant on his home. “They were allowed to look anywhere they wanted and take whatever they wanted,” wrote Wiser.
After being released on bond, Judge Alfred Mackey ordered him to get rid of his guns.
“The one judge I went in front of told me to remove any firearms from my parents’ house and put them at my grandpa’s house,” Wiser said to the Huffington Post. “The next judge freaked out about me even knowing what a gun is and put a no contact order against me and my grandparents. My grandfather is dying right now, and I am not allowed within 500 feet of him.”
“I’ve never met a firefighter who hasn’t carried a pocketknife, and I always use one,” explained Wiser. “I never had any intentions of hurting a soul.”
Yet the prosecutor — who is aspiring to be elected as a judge — is trying to paint Mr. Wiser as a potential killer and plans to throw the book at him.
“There are all these school occurrences where people are shot, people are killed by other students. We see it every day … so we don’t take these things lightly. … We have to be sure that we don’t have a potential for something like that to happen here.”
— Chief Assistant Prosecutor, Harold E. Specht, Jr.
Specht’s harsh words and harsh prosecution may be an attempt to endear himself to fascist-leaning voters in his upcoming judge’s race. His own campaign website boasts how he has built a career upon crushing violators of these so-called “zero tolerance” policies. His press release announcing his candidacy opens with following opening lines:
Ashtabula County Chief Assistant Prosecutor, Harold E. Specht, Jr., has announced his candidacy for the bench being vacated by the Honorable Judge Ronald W. Vettel, in the Ashtabula County Court of Common Pleas.
Harold Specht has made a career of serving and protecting the public. First with the US Marine Corps during the Gulf War, then in nearly two decades with the Ashtabula County Prosecutor’s office, where he has practiced a hardline, zero tolerance policy on prosecuting criminals.
He has since been kicked out of his technical school, A-Tech. “If I am convicted of a felony, I’m never going to be a police officer. I’m never going to be a fireman. I’m never going to be in the military,” he added. “I won’t even be able to be a janitor. I’m 18 years old, and this is going to ruin my entire life.”
A jury trial for Jordan Wiser is tentatively scheduled for June 11th. One wonders if his first-hand experience on the wrong side of the police state will make him reconsider his plans to become a police officer, where he will be tasked with enforcing such draconian punishments on innocent people like himself.
Mr. Wiser joins a number of other students who have been caught up in these zero-tolerance no-weapons policies. Police State USA wrote about multiple Georgia teens who could face a maximum of 10 years in prison for having pocketknives in their parked cars at school. Also covered was a story about an 18-year-old high school senior in Tennessee who was also charged with a felony for the same reason. It would seem that rural states like Georgia, Tennessee, and Ohio would be understanding the common ownership of pocketknives, yet the laws and the stories prove that the injustice of anti-weapon laws has swept into even the most unlikely states.
Ashtabula County chief assistant prosecutor Harold Specht: email@example.com
Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Department: (440) 576-0055
Judge Robert S. Wynn: (440) 576-3617