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Rifle-Toting Teen Found Not Guilty; Jury Says: 'We Upheld the Law'

A seven-member jury found Troy's Sean Combs not guilty of disturbing the peace and brandishing a firearm after the 18-year-old was discovered carrying a firearm in downtown Birmingham in April.

Sean Combs, the Troy 18-year-old , was found not guilty Thursday afternoon of brandishing a firearm and disturbing the peace.

After nearly five hours of deliberation on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning at the 48th District Court, many on the seven-member jury were confident in their final decision.

"We upheld the law," said Rev. Julius DelPino, a jury member from Rochester Hills. "Based on how the law is written, (Combs) was not breaking the law."

Combs was arrested on April 13 after he was stopped by two Birmingham Police officers while he had his loaded M1 Garand rifle slung over his shoulder. When officers asked for identification, Combs refused.

As an adult, Combs was legally able to carry the rifle — a birthday present from an older brother — and under Michigan law, he wasn't required to show police ID. However, that Combs appeared very young and upon refusing show ID, Combs caused enough of a disturbance to attract a crowd.

A third charge of obstructing an officer was dismissed Wednesday by Judge Marc Barron due to lack of evidence.

'I'm not a rebel,' Combs says

However, jury members agreed with Combs and the arguments presented by his attorney, Jim Makowski, a Dearborn-based attorney who specializes in Second Amendment issues.

"(The jury) came out with the right verdict," said Combs outside the courtroom Thursday, after being hugged by his mother, girlfriend and an older brother. Combs' father, a retired police officer, was not present.

Combs said carrying the rifle that night in Birmingham was a form of self-expression.

"I broke a social rule," Combs said. "There's a reason to have those rules, but I don't think every social rule should be followed to a tee."

Outside of that April incident, Combs said he's not the rebel many believe him to be. Combs, who graduated from Troy High School this spring where he was captain of the track team, is looking to study engineering at Oakland Community College in the fall.

"I get that punk rebel kid thing a lot," Combs said. "(But) I was never a rebel in school. I was not afraid to show my opinion, but I'm not a rebel."

Combs' mother, Pam Nitnyk, said she was nervous going into Wednesday's trial but is relieved everything turned out the way it did.

"I was nervous but fairly confident," Nitnyk said. "I was depending on seven people who didn't know my son."

"I just think everyone needs to be know the laws," she added.

Case attracts attention of open carry advocates

Makowski said Thursday's verdict reaffirmed Michigan's open carry laws and most importantly, distinguished open carry from "brandishing."

"Open carry is not brandishing and brandishing is not open carry, there is a distinction," Makowski said, adding, "If I feel the need to openly carry a long gun, the courts have affirmed that I can do that."

Since Combs' arrest, the case has caused an uproar in the open carry community, which has rallied around Combs to show its support.

Open carry advocates, many of whom learned about Combs' case on opencarry.org, have gathered as a group in Birmingham's twice now — and — while openly carrying rifles and pistols in support of Combs.

“The verdict was congruent with the laws as they are written," said Ken Herman, a Clio resident and participant in the June open carry protest in Shain Park. “It is just another relief that our justice system has come through and his peers were able to remain objective in finding a verdict.”

However, while the written by Makowski and the prosecuting attorney, Mary Kucharek of Beier Howlett, P.C., the jury actually spent the most time debating the disturbing the peace charge.

After spending two hours in deliberation on Wednesday, the jury returned at 5 p.m. noting they had reached a verdict on the brandishing charge but not the disturbing the peace charge. The jury spent nearly three additional hours debating that charge Thursday morning.

Combs says civil suit still on the table

The big question after the trial, however: will Combs do it again?

Combs said that Friday night in April was the only night he intended to openly carry his rifle, anyway.

"I probably won't be doing something like this in the near future," Combs said Thursday. "I just want to get away from the stress and the drama and be a normal person again."

Despite finding Combs not guilty, however, several jurors noted they don't necessarily agree with Combs' actions that April night and think there's room in Michigan law for tighter regulation of firearms.

"As a people, we preserve our freedom by restraining our government. But we preserve civilization by restraining ourselves," said Bloomfield Township real estate lawyer and juror Ed Kickham. "There's some gaps in our law (regarding identifying yourself to police officers)."

Still, Kickham noted even if he disagrees with Combs' actions, no law was broken and that was what the jury had to decide in this case.

"I think the police officers behaved in a perfectly reasonable manner," he said. "But I don't think it rose to a breach of the peace."

Combs said while he's been cleared of criminal charges, there are no plans for a civil suit at this time but the idea is still on the table.

Danny Griffin July 16, 2012 at 12:53 AM
Neither the judge nor the jury did.
Danny Griffin July 16, 2012 at 02:29 AM
> .Please read the pleadings I agree with the city prosecutor's analysis of the crimes committed by Combs. LOL! Now you're just making things up because you obviously don't know the "reality" of the case. The prosecutor accused Combs of violating her opinions of what the law should be, ascribing motives and actions to Sean that didn't exist in the first place, and stating legal activities in a way so as to make them appear illegal to those who don't know the law (the jury). She never stated what Sean was doing was actually legal, which it was. Since this happened, groups of supporters have come into Birmingham openly carrying both handguns and rifles. They've attended a Birmingham City Council meeting with their loaded rifles. In fact, the police were there that night to see a new fellow officer get sworn in, and then they left. No one arrested the firearms owners because they were not breaking the law. Here's a couple of photos: http://home.comcast.net/~a3000/img/birmingham/2-sm.jpg http://home.comcast.net/~a3000/img/birmingham/SeanFamily.jpg http://home.comcast.net/~a3000/img/birmingham/BCCmeeting.jpg You really don't know anything about the court filings or the trial, do you?
R Jeppostol July 16, 2012 at 02:42 AM
If anyone's interested, this story was featured on "Let it Rip" on Fox 2 and included an interview with the teen, his lawyer, and a local community activist. The video can be found at the following link: http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/category/237114/let-it-rip
Danny Griffin July 16, 2012 at 04:06 AM
@Greg Thrasher > based upon a false interpetation of our consitution. The Supreme Court of the United States disagrees with you. They have already ruled that 2A is an individual right, not a collective right. Freedom of religion is an individual right. Freedom of speech is an individual right. Freedom of the press is an individual right. Freedom to assemble is an individual right. Freedom to petition the government is an individual right. Freedom from having troops quartered in your house is an individual right. Freedom from unreasonable search and seizure is an individual right. The right to due process is an individual right. Freedom from double jeopardy is an individual right. Freedom from self-incrimination is an individual right. Freedom from eminent domain claims without just compensation is an individual right. The right to a speedy trial is an individual right. The right to a public trial is an individual right. The right to a jury trial is an individual right. The right to confront witnesses is an individual right. The right to counsel is an individual right. Freedom from excessive bail is an individual right. Freedom from cruel and unusual punishment is an individual right. You think every right enumerated in the Bill of Rights is an individual right except the one you don't like, the right to keep and bear arms. I would suggest you read more history and cease with your underdeveloped, myopic, fringe, racist agenda.
Danny Griffin July 16, 2012 at 06:10 AM
@Greg Thrasher > based upon a false interpetation of our consitution. I ran out of characters in an earlier post, but to elaborate on this, in addition to the US Constitution, the Michigan Constitution specifically states that "Every person has a right to bear arms for the defense of himself." It can't be any clearer than that. Please stop with your underdeveloped, myopic, fringe, racist agenda and trying to throw up ideological firewalls between the citizens of Michigan and our legislature and law enforcement. Some of us have been trying hard to eradicate the "Us v. Them" mentality that so many police officers have. (Read PoliceOne.com or Officer.com or any of the other LEO forums to see what I mean). Stop being part of the problem, start being part of the solution. You continually brought race into this trial when race had nothing to do with this trial. Your argument has been that if a black man had been doing this he would have been found guilty, whereas a white man was not, because Birmingham residents are racist. Had I been on the jury I wouldn't have found a black man guilty because he didn't break any laws. Do you know that black people openly carry firearms all across Michigan every day without getting arrested? They do. Your arguments ring hollow like a resounding gong, a clanging cymbal, and the beating of brass.
Danny Griffin July 16, 2012 at 08:15 AM
@cookiepro > Quote in the above article from one of the jurors (who also happens to be a lawyer): "There's some gaps in our law (regarding identifying yourself to police officers)." That is not an inadvertent gap. That is there on purpose. There is a reason for that. Many other states have the same law for a reason. Just because someone is an attorney, does that mean you automatically trust them to be right and knowledgeable? Have you ever used an attorney in a criminal case? Even a domestic case? Have you ever heard any horror stories about divorce attorneys from your friends? Would you just trust your life to any attorney you picked out of a phone book at random? Some attorneys are very conservative. Some are very liberal. Are you equally comfortable with either one's advice? Even if they lose a lot? I really would like to see some people here on the JayWalking segment of the Tonight Show.
Danny Griffin July 16, 2012 at 09:35 AM
Appleseed, how can you commend the city for acting appropriately? The police falsely arrested this young man and charged him with three crimes which he did not commit. The DA chose to go forward with the prosecution, even after the judge told her not to and to settle it out of court. What some here are saying is disturbing. Sure, you, and maybe me, under normal circumstances would not bring our rifles to town. Especially when we can easily carry our handguns. (Remember, federal law prohibits an FFL from selling a handgun to Sean because he is under 21 years of age). But that is not the issue. What is at issue is what is legal, not what you or I would do. I don't think any of us would like it if a LEO gave us a ticket, or arrested us, for driving 55 MPH on a road clearly marked 55 because they didn't care what the law was, they thought 55 was too fast. The police didn't care what the law was, they just started throwing charges at Sean and arrested him for as many things as they could think of. I think that is shameful behavior, and a violation of his civil rights. I hope he pursues a civil rights violation lawsuit against the city of Birmingham as well as the police officers for this egregious behavior.
Danny Griffin July 16, 2012 at 09:49 AM
> Where is the proof that the jury's reasoning was appropriate Where is the proof that this jury's reasoning was inappropriate? They followed the law. With all due respect to this site's rules of conduct, you are insane. You do realize that, right? > This jury demonstrated the absence of community in rendering this hollow verdict. What are you saying? The jury should ignore the law and convict on what they would like the law to be? You have little understanding of law, societal responsibilities to follow the law, the responsibilities of our law enforcement community to police those laws, and the judicial branch to adequately and responsibly adjudicate those laws. > This verdict reduces the civility of Birmingham it puts all of us in peril This verdict puts no one in peril. Grow up.
Greg Thrasher July 16, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Danny, Thanks for confirming for me you lack the depth and scope to understand the reality behind verdicts like this which impact all of us not just young white teens or fringe group special interests. I will never apologize for being a advocate for equality and inclusion. It is because people like you have a blindspot about the reality of race that activists like me exist in our nation. Just because you don't understand how this twisted verdict handicapps our Black youth reveals your shortcomings and myopic mindset. Have a great week all of my friend and comrades..
Debbie Thomas July 16, 2012 at 01:51 PM
R--Thanks for the link. Loved the discussion. However, it did take me back to the bad old days when Huel was sort of driven out of town after the N word was written on his garage door. Bad old days.
R Jeppostol July 16, 2012 at 01:59 PM
While correct to an extent, your argument is overly idealistic. Of course, racial profiling reflects the bias and stereotypes of the majority, but its consequences/repercussions are determined solely by the police who administer the law. After all, in NYC, a person can call a police officer on a "suspicious individual," but it is only the officer who makes the decision to "stop and frisk."
Debbie Thomas July 16, 2012 at 02:16 PM
This discussion brings an idea to mind. The Birmingham Historical Museum could do an exhibit about the history of racism in Birmingham. I think it would help all of us to bring the issue forward. How do the rest of you feel about this?
Lynn Vander Meer July 16, 2012 at 02:31 PM
That's for the recap of The Bill of Rights. Can you do the the same for The Bill of Responsibilities?
Debbie Thomas July 16, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Another question: What about the history of firearms in Birmingham?
CC July 16, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Hooray for Guns!!! Love the second amendement: http://www.freep.com/article/20120716/NEWS01/120716003/Detroit-police-Girl-shoots-self-with-father-s-gun?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE
Kenneth Herman July 16, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Yes, because one person was irresponsible we should ban guns. Or at least we should all know guns are bad, very bad. Seems I read a story not even a year ago where a 7 year old stole grandma's car led the police on a chase, crashed and ended up brain dead. Let's ban cars while we are at it.
cookiepro2 July 16, 2012 at 06:18 PM
I took a look at requirements on the MI gov site for obtaining a handgun (licensing, background check) and a CPL (quite extensive, including pistol training safety course)...it all looks good to me. But you would want to eliminate that? It appears that long guns have no regulation except that the purchaser be over 18, is that because long guns are considered less dangerous? One last question, do you have any ideas on how we as a country can get guns out of the hands of criminals, and all the while not violate the 2nd Amendment?
Thomas Hughes July 16, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Greg, I thought your duties as a 24/7 activist were going to preclude additional comments in this thread.
Greg Thrasher July 16, 2012 at 06:38 PM
@Thomas I am no longer commenting on this issue. Sorry
R Jeppostol July 17, 2012 at 03:29 PM
the Bill of Responsibilities, if it were to exist, i imagine would say that if someone is incapable of doing his/her job efficiently, he/she should walk away from it. This being the case, I think the police chief should take a look at the Bill of Responsibilities and resign immediately.
True Patriot July 17, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Cookie, I'm very glad you decided to do a bit of research into CPL's. It make is much easier to have a conversation with someone who has taken the time understand the laws involved. The truth is, racism is the reason we have any type of gun registration in Michigan. The Dr. Ossian Sweets Case, which injected racial issues into law in order to keep guns out of the hands of black people. The KKK was instrumental in getting this passed in the early 20's. If you want, you can read about it here: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/FTrials/sweet/sweet.html The CPL RI-60 forms still include Race as part of the form that is required to be filled out. Now, 43 other states have no handgun registration at all. It's not the wild west and there is no blood in the streets in those states because of this. In all honesty, handgun registration has not prevented one single crime, ever.
True Patriot July 17, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Your last question is not so easy. There are always those who will purposely injure or kill others for their own gain. There are gangs in New York and New Jersey that only use machetes, no guns. Even if you got rid of all the guns in the world, from criminals and law abiding citizens, bad people would find other ways to kill. This is why we who hold to the 2nd amendment fight so hard to keep it free from infringement. Every time a new law is passed restricting firearms, the criminals rejoice because they know that the only ones to follow it will be the honest law abiding people. That give them free range over the unprotected population. And those who pushed for the infringements feel like they did a good thing, when in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. There are more than enough laws on the books. Michigan Firearms Laws is 272 pages long of restrictions. http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/publications/firearms.pdf Yes, I have read it many times! I read it because I need to know every infringement in order to keep my butt out of jail, and my family safe.
True Patriot July 17, 2012 at 04:28 PM
"I took a look at requirements on the MI gov site for obtaining a handgun (licensing, background check) and a CPL (quite extensive, including pistol training safety course)...it all looks good to me. But you would want to eliminate that?" A CPL is nothing more than a permission slip. You don't have to pay $105, take classes, get fingerprinted etc... to exercise any other rights. And none of those other rights specifically state "shall not be infringed" in them. So yes, it should be eliminated. Michigan should follow Vermont and Alaska. " It appears that long guns have no regulation except that the purchaser be over 18, is that because long guns are considered less dangerous?" No, long guns are not less dangerous. My other post explains why handguns were regulated. If the legislature tried to restrict long guns, they would find themselves voted out. Many hunters don't even own handguns and feel they should be restricted, but if you go after their rifles, they would come out in droves to vote. These hunters are called FUDDS. Slang term for a "casual" gun owner; eg; a person who typically only owns guns for hunting or shotgun sports and does not truly believe in the true premise of the second amendment. These people also generally treat owners/users of so called "non sporting" firearms like handguns or semiautomatic rifles with unwarranted scorn or contempt.
Danny Griffin July 17, 2012 at 04:46 PM
> is that because long guns are considered less dangerous? No, long guns are MORE dangerous. Rifles are much more dangerous than handguns. The rounds travel two to three times as fast (thus doing much more damage) and for much farther a distance, and rifles are much more accurate. The best sniper rifle is...a deer rifle. In general, your chances of surviving being shot with a handgun are much better than being shot with a rifle.
cookiepro2 July 17, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Glad that the Sweet case turned out the way it did, given the times it would not have been surprising if the verdict had been different. TG, they had the greatest defense attorney ever and a fair judge. It does seem odd that the RI-060 pistol purchase form and the RI-012 CPL application form both have a race box. Gender is also included, which would lead me to think that it is for ID purposes. However, driver's licenses which do identify gender do not have race. If it were for statistical purposes, generally forms would say and make that box optional. And if you were of mixed races, what would one put down? Perhaps as you said it is leftover from the old days. I still think gun registration is good. People who have commited crimes, have a PPO order against them, or are mentally ill, should not be able to buy guns, even if it is violating their 2nd Amendment rights. Any ideas on how to stem the tragic drive-by shootings and senseless shootings during convenience store armed robberies that we read about in the newspapers? I know you will probably say guns are not the problem, it is more the symptom of a sick society. But it does seem so easy with guns for an innocent child to be slain in a drive-by.
cookiepro2 July 17, 2012 at 05:21 PM
True Patriot & Danny, Thanks for the info on long guns vs handguns. It sounds like some politics are involved there.
True Patriot July 18, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Cookie, I'm not sure if you got the intent of the Dr. Sweets case. Yes, he was eventually acquitted, but the outrage after his acquittal is what created handgun registration. Registration intended to keep law abiding black people from owning guns. That is the result, and although you believe that registration is still a good thing, I don't think you yet grasp the concept that registration will not keep guns out of the hands of people who have committed crimes, have a PPO against them, or are mentally ill. That is the flaw in the reasoning behind registration. It has absolutely no affect on criminals. The gang bangers who do drive by shootings have nothing to lose and everything to gain by legislative restrictions on firearms. While I don't pretend to have a foolproof way to stem the violence that they create, I do know one thing for sure. Restricting the ability for law abiding citizens to protect themselves is not the answer. You seem to have an open mind on this topic, so I will ask you to please remember this one simple thing when discussing this with others. Who is it that will obey the laws?
cookiepro2 July 18, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Good point, True Patioit. More restrictive gun laws do not seem that they will help with the gun violence, it continues unabated even with the laws that are in place. I would like a confiscation of the illegally held guns that are in possession of the "gangbusters", of couse that's not possible without breaking a host of protected rights. Also pardon my ignorance, but isn't gun registration useful in solving some crimes? You know the ones where ballistics tests are done, the suspected murder weapon is confirmed to be the one, and ownership traced through the serial number on the gun?
Danny Griffin July 18, 2012 at 07:43 AM
> The Birmingham Historical Museum could do an exhibit about the history of racism in Birmingham. Are you racist?
Danny Griffin July 18, 2012 at 08:05 AM
@Greg Thrasher > Thanks for confirming for me you lack the depth and scope to understand the reality behind verdicts like this LOL! I have explained my arguments in detail using the law, the actions of the police, and the actions of the prosecutor. You have done nothing during the course of this entire dialogue except to continually resort to an over-misuse of adjectives and adverbs you pull out of some grab-bag you must think bolsters your non-existent gravitas. Nothing could be further from the truth. You have been exposed for the shallow thinker you are. You need to be able to reason and read the law. And actually using words correctly and using correct grammar would help. If you think that black people would be judged differently, then that is another discussion altogether. Please provide any cites or documentation to support your assertions. This jury followed the law. It seems you are angry because you think that if this had been a black man the jury would not have followed the law.

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