Man Arrested with Gun in Connecticut Theater Calls Charges 'Baseless'

Video: Arrested attorney Sung-Ho Hwang and police both held press conferences on Aug. 8, after he allegedly brought a concealed pistol into a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises."

On Tuesday, Aug. 7, New Haven attorney Sung-Ho Hwang entered the Criterion - Bow Tie Cinema in New Haven with

Today, Hwang, who has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, held a press conference at his Audobon Street business, the Law Offices of Sung-Ho Hwang, LLC, during which he explained the circumstances that led him to bring a weapon into the movie theater. Hwang also discussed his 2nd amendment right to bear arms.   

New Haven Police Chief Dean M. Esserman and New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. held a separate press conference on Church Street, in which they praised the actions of New Haven Police, Yale Police, and Criterion - Bow Tie Cinemas.

Hwang allegedly did not comply with officers' demands in the theater, hence the interfering charges.

This comes less than three weeks after  

View the above video for more information.

Below is a statement from Sung-Ho Hwang:

'I would like to take this opportunity the to explain what had happened. I have had a valid state carry permit for many years. I normally do not carry, but I live in downtown new haven and the movie was getting out at 1am, so I felt that I should protect myself since I was alone.

I have a special conceal holster that goes under my pants and the shirt covers the holster. There is no posting at Criterion at [sic] states that weapons are not permitted. As far as the law is concerned, I have a right to carry there.

I understand that we are in a state of heightened security since the incident at Colorado a couple of months ago. I really feel for the victims and I pray for their family members.

I don’t think that the patrons did any thing wrong. If they did suspect that someone had a weapon I would expect them to call the police. If I were in their situation I would have done the same thing.

I would also like to thank the uniformed police who acted very well under a tough situation. They were very professional and understanding once they discovered that I had a valid state carry permit."

I was cooperative and followed all the directions of the police. I think that the Second amendment is crucially important to protect. When baseless breach of peace and interfering charges are brought against people that have a right to carry, it really threatens our constitution [sic] right to bear arms.'

Editor's Note: Ryan Sartor is the editor of Milford Patch, where this article and video were originally published.

Colin August 10, 2012 at 03:56 AM
He was arrested for legally carrying a weapon he legally owned. To obtain a concealed carry permit, he would have underwent gun safety training, a rigorous background check and a personal interview with local law enforcement. No law was broken here (unless you count the "interfering" charges, because they couldn't charge him with illegal possession). According to data from Texas, concealed handgun license holders are 5.5 times less likely to commit manslaughter than the general population. In fact, it is 20 times more likely you'll be struck by lightning than killed by a CCW holder. (Texas Department of Public Safety, five-year average of statistics on criminal convictions of CHL holders, 2002-2006; U.S. Census Bureau, yearly estimates of Texas Population, 2002-2006; U.S. National Weather Service, “Medical Aspects of Lightning,” Dr. Marry Ann Cooper) What if there was a potential shooter in or around the theater? I'd rather have somebody there who can stop them before a tragedy can turn into a massacre.
Kenneth Herman August 10, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Some one send this to the DA there... http://troy.patch.com/articles/we-upheld-the-law-rifle-toting-teen-found-not-guilty Write the man a check for $20,000, fire the officer(s) involved and say you are sorry. Or........ drag it through court to find him not guilty. Let him sue for 100k plus and answer to your citizens why you blew all their tax dollars.
Claudine Rose August 10, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Concealed weapon? How come people noticed, then? This man is too smart not to know what he was doing and this is a set up to make a point and/or to make money because, of course, he is going to sue. If you want to talk about rights infringements, you guys might want to tackle a bigger issue like the Patriot Act. In the meantime, I will avoid public place like cinemas, concert halls and churches and I will home school my kids, thank you very much.
J. Sosallter August 10, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Ct law does not address concealed status - it only addresses permit to carry. Ct law does not allow a permit holder to carry on private property if prohibited by person controlling the premises. Something is missing in the story this man is telling. And what's the basis for suit? He complicated that by refusing to obey the order of a police officer. Have to research further - if you are carrying a gun, I believe you may have an affirmative obligation to tell that to the officer in any interaction with an officer. Not sure. "Sec 29-28-(e) The issuance of any permit to carry a pistol or revolver does not thereby authorize the possession or carrying of a pistol or revolver in any premises where the possession or carrying of a pistol or revolver is otherwise prohibited by law or is prohibited by the person who owns or exercises control over such premises."
Daniella Ruiz August 10, 2012 at 08:40 PM
the 'situation' was not as depicted by the police statement, as if they made it safe when it already was 'safe'. if permits are issued, and the permit holder is arrested despite having the permit, then the permit is a non-functionary piece of paper, as is the thought process behind the issue of it. when only the criminals have weapons (illegally concealed and ready) then the legal public will be at risk of becoming the victim, long before any 'safety' personnel ever arrive. i carry a stick when i walk among the wild things, as the wild things are predators. i thank god i don't need a permit to walk with a stick, yet! .
Adam August 11, 2012 at 03:34 AM
According to Mayor DeStevano, "Just because something is legal doesn't make it right." Unbelievably arrogant and condescending, that. According to the Mayor, the laws are not there to inform the public was is acceptable behavior. To the contrary, we should look to the political whims of a Mayor of one of the most dangerous cities in Connecticut to guide our decision-making as to what is right and wrong in a public setting. Instead of obeying the law, we should suspend the exercise of a Constitutional right so that the focus need not be on the Mayor's pathetic record on keeping innocent residents safe. Instead, let's attack the decisions of an attorney in good standing with the Bar who dares shine a spotlight on the cowardice, impotence and incompetence of our municipal leadership.
Ralph Warner August 11, 2012 at 12:55 PM
So here's the problem with this, law enforcement claims to be very pro second amendment, and yet they arrest a man who has the proper permission slip from the government to exercise his constitutional right to bear arms for self defense. So I have to ask the question, to what extent do they believe in the second amendment and for who ? Obviously John Q. Citizen isn't trustworthy according to law enforcement actions, and they only issue permits because they can't find anything against the person who they are forced to issue a permit to.
J. Sosallter August 11, 2012 at 01:22 PM
But how does the presumption about a gun work - is it that the person who has the gun is presumed to have a permit or the other way? The police were responding. Importantly in this case, the individual did not obey the police, raising the stakes because he had a gun. What if the gun toting individual were on private property where the premise owner prohibits guns? No matter how this is sliced, this individual, as a lawyer, is facing both criminal charge for disobeying police plus likely professional sanction under the canons of professional conduct applicable to lawyers. And what's more, if the policy had ignored the call, and an individual with a gun did a copycat killing spree, how loud would the public outrage be - pretty loud I venture. Owning and carrying a gun carries with it a very high degree of responsibility- including knowing when not to carry it (priv. prop owners can prohibit possession on their property) and when to obey police commands and when there is an affirmative obligation to identify oneself as being armed.
J. Sosallter August 11, 2012 at 01:33 PM
The statistics from Texas are not helpful because the comparison points are not informed. Manslaughter - how? With a gun, a knife, a car, a fight, negligent surgery, drunk driving - manslaughter charges may apply in all of these and others. It's a skewed reference at the least because it needs to account for deaths by gunfire. Take to its logical outcome, what the above post says is that gathering in any public place means taking a risk to be in the middle of a shoot-out. And it encourages assessment of that risk as even remotely probably. What do you think the odds of being in a public gathering with an armed and deranged killer are? And further, what are the odds that additional innocent lives will be snuffed out because of a self-appointed protector who is also armed challenges the deranged person? Will the deranged person be deterred (not if he is deranged), will facing down the barrel of another gun affect a deranged person's judgment (probably not if he is deranged). Will the self-appointed protector act rationally and does he have the training to assess the situation like a peace officer? Is the risk higher for the innocents? And finally, how about actual probability that a lawfully owned gun is more likely to be used in a crime than used lawfully if used to shoot another person?
Adam August 12, 2012 at 02:47 AM
J. - The theater is private property but it was open to the public and no notices were posted that prohibited the possession of a handgun, according to the defendant. According to the video of the theater's representative, he did not contradict this statement. Secondly, you are assuming that the charge of disobeying a police officer will be held up. You don't know that; only a jury does. Why do you assume the police are always right factually or in enforcing the law? If they were, why bother having a trial?
J. Sosallter August 12, 2012 at 11:48 AM
I said criminal charge, not criminal conviction. Your point about the trier of fact applies equally to any statements by or on behalf of the defendant. Let's be clear, we don't even know if there will be a trial until the prosecutor makes the final determination. And one other presumption is that the trial would be by a jury. I'm sure you know the defendant could waive jury trial and go for a bench trial (judge as trier of fact, not jury). By the way, a more detailed articled was in The Courant - the report said this guy continued to talk on a cell phone, stayed in in his seat and did not obey police officer commands (others did as asked). But we really don't know if the prosecutor is going to pursue the charge - a lot of factors go into that decision. Just because the police file the charge, does not mean the prosecutor has to take it to trial. Personally, it's not comforting that a person with gun seems to take it upon himself about whether he will follow police requirements. Interesting that conviction could mean he loses the right to have a gun permit.
Adam August 12, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Your statement that this defendant will face a "likely professional sanction" suggested to me that you believed the charge was meritorious because the Bar would not pursue disciplinary action if he is acquitted of a charge, should one be brought. Further, I would be surprised if he waived a jury. Depending on the venue, my sense is that a jury would sympathize with him, especially since he was doing nothing wrong. You rightly point out that a prosecutor may not push the issue since he can only be charged with a technicality and for all he knows he was asking his own attorney on his cell what he should do under the circumstances.
J. Sosallter August 12, 2012 at 04:12 PM
As you know, neither criminal charge (nor acquittal) is dispositive of whether an attorney is subject to disciplinary action under the RPC. Absent more facts, there's no way to whether probable cause exists for a breach of the RPC. But the entire circumstance gives rise to the possibility (more from his response to the police it appears). You can't know if he was doing anything wrong just yet. You can't conclude the status of behavior as a technicality (which, I'm sure you know, is a term generally applicable only in respect of procedural matters, not substantive elements of criminal conduct.). And who he was talking doesn't alter the obligation to obey the reasonable commands of a police officer. That was pretty much irrelevant conjecture. You never know how the prosecutor might see this - the discretion exercised might include whether this would be a good case to pursue for the example it might be, in addition to the facts.
J. Sosallter August 12, 2012 at 04:15 PM
I am curious if there's a possibility that the charges might include anything that is a felony. Pending charges could be dropped, or new charges brought, based on investigation. I suppose time will tell.
Adam August 13, 2012 at 04:30 PM
J - If we assume that he is acquitted of all charges brought against him, on what basis would the State pursue disciplinary action? Remember, he was NOT acting in his capacity as a lawyer, e.g. addressing a court or tribunal, representing a client, custodian of client confidences, interfacing with an adversary. Separately, if acquitted, consider the political consequences of the Connecticut Statewide Grievance Committee deciding to bring a complaint against a lawyer whose clear intent was to establish whether the City of New Haven was respecting a constitutional right. Whether the intent is only to punish him for disobeying a police officer is beside the point since it will clearly be overshadowed by the bigger, more passionate, issue of self-defense and the right to bear arms. I didn't say that talking to his lawyer was an excuse. It may, however, be a mitigating factor that should be afforded weight in the decision to prosecute.
J. Sosallter August 13, 2012 at 05:05 PM
The applicable standards are in the RPC, which is of course irrelevant to the standard applicable for successfully proving a crime. The State doesn't pursue disciplinary action, and sanctions and disciplinary actions are possible (e.g. temporary suspension of license to practice). I'm sure you're familiar with Rule 8.4 among others that might (only might) apply. At this point, everything is pure speculation because underlying facts are absent. Passionate issue of self-defense? That's a bizarre rationale. How have you concluded clear intent? That's not a common basis to excuse behavior - did he carry a gun, and call the police on himself? Did have someone else call - all to prove that the police authority acted appropriately? (Seem they did, but again, this a whacky premise.) That requires so many suppositions as to be pure conjecture, not to mention that such deliberate action may include false emergency, and may have endangered innocent people which might give rise to other criminal charges or even civil liabilities (remember the innocent other theater-goers). The main point is that we don't know enough of the facts. There is not likely going to be any mitigating factor for not obeying the commands of a police office - from what know of this circumstance (it's pretty far fetched in any context because the deference shown to judgment of police in securing a situation is pretty high.)
Adam August 13, 2012 at 05:54 PM
J.- Commentary on 8.4: "Although a lawyer is personally answerable to the entire criminal law, a lawyer should be professionally answerable only for offenses that indicate lack of those characteristics relevant to law practice. Offenses involving violence, dishonesty, breach of trust, or serious interference with the administration of justice are in that category." On August 11th, you stated that Mr. Hwank will "likely [face] a professional sanction." In your most recent statement above, you appear to be backpedaling (e.g. "underlying facts are absent"). I agree we don't know the facts; that was point in my original post. But then you state that RPC 8.4 may apply. Is it your belief that Mr. Hwang MAY have committed a "serious interference with the administration of justice"? If so, do you believe that all instances of passive resistance (e.g. refusing to obey an officer when he demands you empty your pockets) is a "serious interference with the administration of justice"?
J. Sosallter August 13, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Are we arguing a case before a tribunal or offering comments on a community website - don't answer that, it was rhetorical. Suffice it to say that any number of additional facts are plausible based on the limited information available, and many of such plausible additional facts would serve to support criminal charges and/or professional disciplinary action, while few would tend to exculpate this person in entirety.


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