August 20, 2014

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Smith cleared of third weapons charge

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Kathleen Ann Sutula has cleared a North Ridgeville man who took a loaded handgun and four knives into a movie theater last year of having weapons under disability, a decision that opens the door for the 20 guns seized by police to be returned to Scott A. Smith.

The verdict came Friday following a bench trial that began Wednesday.

Smith, 38, pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of carrying concealed weapons stemming from the Aug. 4 incident, but his lawyer, Jack Hildebrand, said neither of those charges bar the guns from being returned to Smith.

Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Aaron Brockler said that his office will oppose the return of the weapons, which he valued at more than $100,000, and body armor to Smith.

“The Prosecutor’s Office does not believe the law should permit mentally ill drug abusers to assemble virtual arsenals and carry weapons into a Batman movie — clearly inspired by a mass murderer in a Colorado theater,” Brockler said in a statement. “The only hero here was the alert police officer who refused to accept the defendant’s lies, who searched his active shooter bag and located the hidden semi-automatic gun, two extra clips, knives, and survival gear. Thank goodness (Westlake police) Officer Jeremiah Bullins acted before anyone was killed.”

Smith was arrested by Bullins after he went to a showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” at Regal Cinemas in Westlake. Both Bullins and a theater employee questioned Smith about the satchel he was carrying.

Hildebrand said Smith was carrying the weapons for protection because he feared what might happen in the wake of the Colorado massacre.

Smith offered to return the 9mm semiautomatic pistol, knives and ammunition to his vehicle, but he was arrested instead. A search of his Emerald Drive home later turned up an additional seven pistols and a dozen rifles and shotguns.

Hildebrand didn’t deny that his client, who doesn’t have a concealed carry permit, shouldn’t have been carrying the weapons in the theater, which is why he entered the guilty pleas earlier this week.

But he strongly disputed that Smith was drug dependent and therefore barred from possession of firearms as prosecutors contended. Smith took prescription pain medications up until about a month ago, Hildebrand said.

He said Smith’s doctor testified that “he was not drug dependent and not in danger of harming himself.”

Smith is scheduled to be sentenced March 21. Hildebrand said he intends to ask for probation.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.