June 4, 2004
Zanesville Times Recorder
ZANESVILLE -- Harold E. Newell Jr. stole five cases of beer in 1966, and that youthful indescretion has prevented him from getting his concealed-carry weapon license 38 years later.
"I have nothing to hide," said Newell, 56, of Zanesville. "I was a kid; I made a mistake. We confessed to it all, paid the fines and were given probation. But my constitutional rights have not been restored."
Newell and four other youths stole five cases of beer from an unlocked cooler at a convenience store in Zanesville, he said. He was charged with felony breaking and entering, and was fined and given probation. Newell thought the charge was a misdemeanor, and figured he would do his time and pay for what he had done, and he thought that would be the end of it.
He spent a year working through the court system to get his record expunged after he was denied a concealed-carry license in the state of Washington because of the offense. When it was granted in 1990, all documents of his crime were sealed and believed he was given all the rights afforded a citizen who had never committed a crime.
However, under Ohio's concealed-carry weapons law, sheriff's offices and the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation can inspect expunged records and use the information to determine if an individual should be issued a concealed-carry license.
"One code section basically requires the sheriff to examine expunged records while doing background investigation of a concealed carry applicant," Maj. Bryan Hoover of the Muskingum County Sheriff's Office said.
Newell said the wording in the law says a person "can" be denied a license; not that it is required. The final decision lies with the sheriff of the county where the application is filed.
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Concealed carry weapons licenses can be denied if a person has been convicted of a felony, assault, homicide-related charges, drug, assault on a peace officer or domestic violence crimes, Hoover said.
Muskingum County Sheriff Bob Stephenson said there are five county residents who have been denied concealed carry weapons licenses because of information discovered in expunged records.
Newell, a retired Marine Corps gunnery sergeant and Ohio corrections officer, has been carrying weapons -- both concealed and out in the open -- for 20 years. He served in Vietnam and Lebanon, and after serving in the military worked as a corrections officer for Belmont and Noble counties. He has received concealed-carry weapons licenses in Massachusetts and Louisiana.
Some people choose to expunge their records for job purposes. If a record is sealed or expunged, it is deemed not to exist, and the individual is not required to tell a potential employer they have a criminal record.
Hoover said applicants can appeal concealed-carry weapons license denials through common pleas court. Newell will do so, and hopes to work with state representatives and senators to modify the law regarding expunged records.
"I know I was wrong; I confessed to it. I paid for it and did my probation," he said. "But I came home to find the constitutional rights I supported in the U.S. military are gone."
FLASHBACK: President Bush pardons TN man so he can get his CCW permit