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Marine on trial for having gun outside Fort Lee club testifies in own defense

Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT: “If there are 11 Marines in jeopardy and one of them can sacrifice himself to save them, that’s what he will do,” Marine MP Hisashi Pompey told jurors today, testifying in his own defense in a weapons trial in Hackensack.

Pompey is accused of unlawfully carrying a handgun for a Christmastime 2011 incident in which a friend was caught with the Marine’s off-duty weapon following a melee at a Fort Lee nightclub.

Testifying for well over an hour and a half, Pompey spoke rapidly but he was composed and knowledgable — carefully outlining military procedure, how he practices it, and his respect for it.

A few times during his testimony, however, the court stenographer asked Pompey to repeat answers or to slow down, as the young man stumbled over words explaining how innocent holiday plans resulted in his arrest and indictment for carrying a handgun without a permit.

Under questioning by defense attorney John Carbone, Pompey said he’d planned a surprise holiday visit to his children in Paterson.

“I hadn’t been able to spend Christmas with them in about four years,” he explained.

Before leaving, he and some fellow Marines made a Christmas Eve stop at the shooting range in Quantico, Va., where Pompey is permanently stationed.

All Marines must qualify with weapons “twice a year, and that’s only for rifles,” Pompey testified. “Then we have to qualify twice a year with handguns, too.”

Finding the range closed, the group carefully stored all the weapons in a lock box in the trunk of Pompey’s car, he said. There wasn’t enough room, Pompey said, so he stowed his off-duty weapon in his already-packed travel bag before dropping off his fellow service members.

“There is no requirement by the military to transport weapons in a lock box,” Pompey testified, adding that he put his gun in the bag to avoid it being confused with the others.

The next day, he left for Paterson — the gun still in his travel bag, the ammunition stored separately, Pompey told jurors. But family plans went awry.

Pompey said he was at his cousin’s home when he got a call from an old friend, Isaiah Wilson.

Learning that the MP was at loose ends for the evening, Wilson invited Pompey to go to a birthday party at the Fort Lee club.

Both men drove, but Pompey said he put his bag in Wilson’s car because his was full of gifts for his children, nieces and nephews.

A couple hours after midnight Dec. 26, things got ugly.

“First, there was an altercation between two women, which the bouncers broke up,” he said. “Then around 2:30 a.m. there was another fight starting, and it wasn’t women.  There were more people involved.

“Now the bouncers started kicking everyone out of the club,” he said.

Pompey said he had both sets of keys, so he went straight to Wilson’s car, which was parked behind the Port Authority’s administration building near the George Washington Bridge.

There, Pompey said, he put on his holster and secured his gun.

Moments later, he saw Wilson “wobbling” toward him, a large gash on his head.

“I saw blood coming down his face, so I ran and asked him what happened,” Pompey told jurors.

Using medic treatment he’s been trained for in field emergencies, Pompey applied pressure to the back of Wilson’s neck to stop the bleeding.

“I asked him, ‘Are you okay to drive?’ I was going to take him somewhere to get some stitches.”

But Wilson was agitated, saying, “They hit me in the head with a bottle, and I had nothing to do with it. Eff that!”

At that point, while he was still applying pressure, Pompey said, Wilson pulled the weapon from the MP’s holster.

“I tried to grab his arm, but he snagged my gun and was walking away while I yelled at him to come back,” he said.

By that point, several Port Authority police officers had arrived.

Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Edward Burke asked Pompey why he didn’t try to tackle Wilson.

“You were fit, trained in combat. You have a brown belt in martial arts,” Burke told him. “You describe Mr. Wilson as coming out of the club bloody and wobbly.

“You could have tackled him.”

Standing down was the appropriate response given the number of uniformed officers present, Pompey responded.

From there, he said, he simply waited until Wilson had been subdued and handcuffed to approach the police and take responsibility for the weapon.

“I thought military weapons were covered in all states,” he said.  “If I had known they weren’t recognized in New Jersey, I never would have brought it here.”

Wilson pleaded guilty on May 2 for his part in the incident, which will require him to serve three years in state prison for having a firearm without a permit.

Closing arguments in Pompey’s case are scheduled for tomorrow morning before Superior Court Judge Edward Jerejian.

STORY / PHOTO: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

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