New Jersey’s red flag law is being tested in a case involving a man who had his guns confiscated after his former doctor reported him.
Alfred Conti had his guns taken from his home by police in September after a surgeon who had sued him for defamation called authorities to report that the 56-year-old man “became agitated”during a phone call, according to the Asbury Park Press.
A hearing was held this week in order to determine if Conti will have his guns returned to him or lose his Second Amendment right and be banned from owning a gun for a period of time.
Conti was involved in an ongoing dispute with Dr. Matthew Kaufman because he was still in pain after Kaufman performed neck surgery on him. He was reportedly dismissed from the medical practice due to his “aggressive” behavior, according to the news outlet, though Conti asserted that is not the whole picture.
After the patient reportedly wrote negative reviews online, Kaufman and the Plastic Surgery Center sued him in July for defamation. Conti allegedly called Kaufman’s attorney, James Maggs, twice the following month begging to be seen by the doctor because he was still in pain.
The lawyer recorded the second call which was played in court this week.
“It started out the first few seconds a normal call then quickly he became agitated,” Maggs said. “His overall demeanor, I felt, became threatening and I became alarmed.”
According to Asbury Park Press:
In it, Conti used expletives and threatened to bring the police and media with him to force Kaufman to see him. He also said he knew where Maggs and Kaufman lived.
Maggs said he was worried; he had seen posts from Conti’s Facebook page that included references to guns.
Maggs and Kaufman called the police, who drove to Conti’s home and took his firearms under the state’s red-flag law.
But Conti asserted there were key details left out of reporting and explained to BPR that he faced the defamation lawsuit after posting negative reviews online of the doctor after two years of unsuccessful treatment following his surgery. He added that he removed the reviews when he received notice of the lawsuit but the attorney was the one who called him at home, as Conti explained he was representing himself in the case and had not secured legal representation.
Conti told BPR that the lawyer hung up on him after he asserted there was no basis for the complaint since the reviews were deleted. But the attorney allegedly called him back at his home in a few minutes and that’s when Conti made the comments about where Kaufman lives, apparently referring to his upscale home and lifestyle.
Three pistols, one rifle and one revolver as well as ammunition were taken from Conti by police despite his assertion that he never threatened anyone, and that it was the attorney who initiated the phone calls by calling him directly.
Even Maggs acknowledged to Conti’s lawyer, Jason Seidman, that Conti did not directly threaten to inflict violence, but after he said he knew where Maggs and Kaufman lived, “that, to me, was something that made me very alarmed.”
But there did not seem to be any other evidence presented showing Conti was a danger to others or himself, and police apparently found him very “cooperative”when they arrived to seize his property.
“He was very cooperative in assisting us and his conversation with us,” Officer Dan Campanella with the Rumson Police Department said at the hearing. “As far as [discussing] what had occurred, he maintained he never threatened anybody and has rightful grievances with both parties.”
Indeed, Conti told BPR that his comments were meant to convey that the medical practice and the doctor were in a favorable financial position and could sue anyone who was deemed a threat to business.
New Jersey’s red flag law was signed by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy in September. The “extreme risk protection order” allows authorities to confiscate firearms from people considered dangerous. The judge in Conti’s case did not issue a ruling but set another hearing for Dec. 12.
“Unlike other states with red flag laws on the books, New Jersey’s law doesn’t automatically expire after a specific period of time, which means if the judge approves the order, Conti will be permanently barred from legally owning firearms unless or until the judge decides at a future point in time that the red flag order can be lifted,” Cam Edwards of Bearing Arms wrote.
“Cases like this demonstrate the dangers of red flag firearms seizure laws. Here’s a man in a dispute with his doctor over what he believes was a botched surgery, who has made no threats against anyone, but who still may lose his right to keep and bear arms along with his good health,” Edwards wrote.
“It doesn’t appear that Conti’s had any trouble with the law, and even now hasn’t been charged with a crime, much less convicted of anything,” he continued. “Still, one dumb comment about knowing where the doctor and his attorney live may cause him to lose his Second Amendment rights for the rest of his life.”
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