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Permit to Carry Irrelevant to Abusive Cops Who Can't Admit a Simple Mistake

by Nicki Fellenzer

April 30, 2003 -- On April 13, 1999 Dennis Maly's life changed, and not for the better. His view of the police changed. His view of our justice system changed. And he still shakes with anger when he thinks about that day. That was the day Dennis was arrested in front of his teenage daughter, treated like a common criminal, booked and prosecuted…

…for carrying a concealed weapon, despite having a legal permit to do so.

On the evening of April 13, 1999 Maly came home from work. He carried an automatic knife in his pocket -- a tool he uses at work. He was to pick up his 15-year-old daughter Mary and drive her to a formal evening. When Maly arrived at home, his front door was ajar, and his teenager was nowhere to be found.

After a few phone calls to her friends, the concerned father grabbed his gun and ran out of the house, not thinking about the switchblade in his pocket. His mind was on finding his daughter. He was ready to protect her if he had to, but first he had to find her. After several hours of frantic searching Maly found his daughter at a restaurant with some friends already in her formal gown. He insisted they needed to talk about her unacceptable behavior, and he drove her to a large parking lot for a chat.

The argument between father and daughter ended in a hug and tears, and Dennis was about to drive Mary back, when flashing lights pulled up behind his car. Apparently someone saw an older man arguing with a young, dressed up girl in a parking lot and decided that this happy couple was a hooker and her john arguing about money! The holder of this repugnant assumption called the police, and Officer Jason Skaggs had no problem treating his prey with prejudice.

What kind of prejudice?

He screeched up behind Maly, and began yelling at him to put his hands behind his back and surrender. When Maly tried to ask the officer what the problem was, he was cut off in mid-sentence. When Maly tried to inform Skaggs that he was armed, he was interrupted with an order to surrender. "Each time I tried to inform him of the concealed weapon, he screamed and grabbed his gun telling me I was going to make this a lot worse if I didn't shut up," Maly recalls.

Mary Maly remembers with disgust how rude Skaggs was, how he kept ordering her father to shut up, how her dad pleadingly indicated to her to tell the officer he was carrying a weapon -- as required by law. "My father looked at me with pleading eyes to tell the officer what he had," Mary recalls. "I proceeded to say 'my father has a semi-automatic .45 caliber pistol on him, and a license to carry it.'" She also recalls the fear and paranoia in the officer's eyes as he radioed for backup. He radioed for backup when his "suspect" was willingly surrendering -- as if unable to handle one cooperative "suspect" and a teenage girl.

"Well let me tell you," Dennis Maly continues, "within just a few minutes, the whole place was lousy with cops. It must have looked like a major drug bust to any passersby. None, and I mean none of the cops believed anything my daughter or I said. They kept trying to tell her she was a prostitute and they caught us right in the middle of our deal."

They rifled through Mary's purse -- without permission, according to Dennis -- and finally found her driver's permit. Imagine their surprise when the addresses on both Malys' licenses matched! But did that stop the police? Apparently not. 

After learning that their suspect was, in fact, just another citizen and not a john trying to purchase some underage tail, these selfless enforcers of the law and protectors of the general public decided to arrest Maly for willfully ignoring the law that requires a permittee to  inform the arresting officer of his firearm possession during initial contact!

Yes, according to Maly they arrested him even though he attempted to tell the arresting officer several times that he was armed. 

The charges? Carrying a concealed weapon (the knife Dennis Maly still had in his pocket), not notifying the arresting officer that he was armed (even though the arresting officer screamed at Maly to "SHUT UP!" every time Maly tried to inform him that he had a gun) and not following a police officer's instructions (attempting to inform Officer Jason Skaggs he was armed, as required by the law, even after being told to shut up).

Mary Maly recalls the events of that evening as "incorrigible, underhanded, distasteful, and unjust." She was visibly shaken by the incident and is vastly disappointed in Bethany Oklahoma's "finest," who tried to tell her to drive her father's car home that night, even though this scared teenage girl only had a learner's permit. 

The lunacy of forcing citizens to have a permit to practice a basic human right -- the right to defend one's life -- aside, Dennis Maly did nothing wrong, and he eventually proved so in a court of law. But at what cost?

He had to pay thousands in attorney's fees, although Don Jackson, his attorney, gave the family a substantial discount because of this raw deal. He missed work. He had to endure suspicious glances from co-workers and friends. And now, the record of his arrest -- even though Dennis Maly was eventually exonerated -- will always stain his record. Mary Maly missed school, due to court dates. She lost sleep. And she lost faith in "the system."

Dennis Maly says he still feels physically sick when he remembers that night's events. Can you blame him? The prosecutors dragged the case out for months. The case cost him a substantial amount of money. He was humiliated, arrested in front of his child, treated like a common criminal for no reason and prosecuted. He was put in jail until he was able to make bail. The system that was put in place to protect him harmed and harassed him. Is it any wonder Dennis Maly feels betrayed by the criminal justice system? Is it any wonder his view of the system has changed from one meant to protect citizens to one that takes advantage of them for profit?

This sickening episode in Bethany, Oklahoma underscores the obscenity of power hungry government officials who have forgotten their function. They are public servants, not feudal lords or slave owners. Their job is to protect, not to harass. The system failed Dennis Maly, because the public servants that are a part of the system jumped to pernicious conclusions, and then refused to admit their error in judgment and continued prosecuting the subject of their ire -- the person they blamed for their mistake. In order to avoid public embarrassment, they tried to bully Maly into accepting a plea bargain -- a vain attempt to paint an innocent citizen guilty of a non-existent crime and appear magnanimous at the same time. In fact, they probably knew they would never win their case on its non-existent merits, but they tried to terrorize Maly into admitting guilt of a lesser "offense" so they could chalk it up as a win. 

This is a case of public servants forgetting their function. This is a case of a government run amok. It's a case of petty small-town tyrants asserting their power over the "little people" -- wielding their authority over a citizen like a whip over a slave. The arresting officers' disdain for an armed citizenry was clear and pronounced. The officer's fear and alarm upon learning that his prey was armed was evident in his eyes, according to Mary Maly. What did this cop have to fear? Did a citizen capable of defending himself without the police's exalted experience make him uncomfortable? Is a human being, who asserts his independence from petty tyranny by carrying a firearm, worthy of contempt in this officer's eyes? Apparently so.

Apparently Dennis Maly was so contemptible in the police's eyes that night that they refused to release him, even after learning that Maly was not soliciting the services of a teenage hooker. Instead, unable to admit error and defeat, the petty oppressors who run the system abused Dennis Maly.

Dennis Maly refuses to be a victim. He's an armed citizen who will protect himself and his family should the need arise. But the system made Maly into a victim the night of April 13, 1999 -- a victim of tyranny and oppression. This is precisely the type of tyranny our Founding Fathers wanted us to guard against when they included the Second Amendment to the US Constitution in the Bill of Rights. This is precisely the type of oppression that an armed populace must prevent. 

Remember Dennis Maly next time an impotent oppressor in a three-piece suit tries to place limits on your right to keep and bear arms. Because next time it could be you in fighting to keep your dignity, maintaining your innocence and defending yourself against trumped up charges meant to cover up incompetence and paranoia on the part of those who want power over you. The more you allow the government to erode your rights, the closer we will all be to a society where the case of Dennis Maly is the status quo.