Ryan Jerome, a jeweler from Indiana, is a model tourist. He investigates local law before making a trip, and then sticks to it like white on rice while spending his hard-earned cash on sightseeing and boosting the area’s economy.
But trying to do the right thing in the Big Apple can reap rotten returns. Jerome, a retired, third generation Marine, discovered as much on his first trip here last fall when he was arrested and jailed for attempting to check his licensed handgun at the Empire State Building. The entrepreneur, who had just established his business, was carrying the firearm because he had several thousand dollars worth of jewelry on him which he wanted to show a refiner in New York.
Jerome paid a steep price for his honesty. He was cuffed, slapped with life-altering gun possession charges, and hauled off to jail for two days while he tried to make bail. Now, he is facing a three-and-half-year prison term if indicted at his March 20 court date — unless Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance does the right thing by junking this trumped-up case altogether.
Jerome’s ordeal puts Vance’s crime-fighting chops on the chopping block. The prosecutor is an outspoken advocate of the city’s wacky gun amnesty program, which gives $200 to anyone surrendering an illegal firearm — without questions or fear of prosecution. Yet he’s made Jerome his whipping boy for our anti-gun laws, offering him a dubious plea deal only after the case sparked a national furor which www.thepetitionsite.com/1/Free-Ryan-Jerome/“>produced a “Free Ryan Jerome” Facebook page.
Jerome rightfully rejected the offer, which would forever brand him a violent felon, because he is neither a criminal nor someone with an illegal gun.
Vance, who wouldn’t comment on the matter, has served better justice in worse cases. One that received his kid glove treatment is detailed in a Feb. 14 letter sent to his office by Jerome’s lawyer, Mark Bederow. It involves a man charged in 2009 with bringing a loaded gun to a Manhattan college campus, and then telling a witness that he had come to “shoot that motherf—— in the head.” “Nevertheless, in early 2011, on the motion of [District Attorney Vance], the case was dismissed and sealed,” writes Bederow.
Even at a cursory glance, the facts point to Jerome’s innocence and good faith. He tried to check his gun repeatedly, cooperated readily with law enforcement before and after his arrest, and even conducted “Google” searches on his cellphone before departing Indiana, leading him to believe that his carry permit was valid in New York.
“All the information was on my phone, the history was there,” Jerome told me.
This case could be the final nail in Cyrus Vance’s prosecutorial coffin. His skimpy skills have taken a serious beating since he took office two years ago. The two cops charged with rape, and the three construction supervisors charged in the deaths of firefighters in the 2007 Deutsche Bank blaze, were acquitted, while his rush to judgment in the sex assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn turned embarrassingly on its ear after it was found that the victim lied.
Vance must mend his tattered reputation if he is seeking another term. One easy way is by delivering swift justice to Ryan Jerome, whose only crime was acting with grace under fire — and then some.
Read Shavana Abruzzo's column every Friday on BrooklynDaily.com.