Niagra County – A NY Army Veteran charged with violation of New York’s SAFE act faces 21 years in prison after his conviction on Friday, April 21. But is isn’t the weapon itself that caused his plight, it was the three pistol magazines he had in a locked box in his car when stopped by police in April of 2016. No weapon was found, but each magazine is punishable by 7 years in prison.
Simeon D. Mokhiber, 41, was arrested on April 18, 2016 and given field sobriety tests for possible DUI. He was allegedly speeding as well as being DUI. He also had not been drinking, and was ultimately acquitted of that charge. But inside his vehicle- in a locked gun box- were three pistol magazines capable of firing more than 10 rounds.
Police can search a vehicle incident to arrest, according to long standing Supreme Court rulings. But the locked box is problematic, and probably should have required a search warrant, given that Mr. Mokhiber did not give them permission to search it.
Mohkiber was a Staff Sergeant who served 9 years in the US Army. He was involved in Iraq in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. After his service, he became a US contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was licensed as an armed New York Security Guard. He was also an EMT-B. He has no prior criminal record.
He was currently employed by G4S Security Services.
The incident allegedly went south as soon as Mokhiber asked the officers to turn on their body cameras. He is reportedly a licensed owner of a registered handgun. But no weapon was found in the vehicle, only three Glock 17-round magazines.
New York Law prohibits possession of magazines that carry “over 7 rounds,” but grandfathered in magazines for 10 rounds purchased previously as long as only 7 rounds were loaded into them.
Did Mokhiber screw up? Yes, according to New York laws. Did the police do the right thing? Not necessarily. Whether or not they acted out of spite because of Mokhiber’s attitude is anyone’s guess.
Mokhiber will appear before sentencing Judge Matthew J. Murphy III in two months. It’s another US veteran with no criminal record going to prison at at time when New York is actively helping criminals and illegal immigrants. It seems backwards.
Update note: we were contacted by a retired Maryland state trooper who gave us two court cases in which may have affected this situation: “SIA was turned on its head when the decision on Arizona v. Gant came about. The original scope of the SIA was that you were searching for “fruits of the crime” or further evidence of the crime the person was being arrested for. If you found additional illegal items, then it was a bonus.” (SIA= Search Incident to Arrest.) The original case from the Supreme court was New York v. Belton.