Capitol Hill Gun Case Delayed in Wake of D.C. Ruling

Attorneys for Prestage are negotiating with government officials in his Capitol Hill gun case. (Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

For the second time in less than a week, federal prosecutors and defense lawyers have agreed to delay a case involving a man carrying a gun to Capitol Hill.  

Ronald Prestage — the South Carolina pork executive arrested by Capitol Police when they found a loaded semi-automatic pistol and magazine in his briefcase — was expected to appear in D.C. Superior Court on Wednesday. But the 11 a.m. hearing was not held.  

Court documents state the government and defense are continuing negotiations, suggesting a plea deal might be possible. A federal ruling on D.C.'s gun policy may impact charges in the case.  

On July 23, Capitol Police spotted a handgun in Prestage's briefcase during an administrative search at the Rotunda door of the Cannon House Office Building. Police say the weapon, concealed in a black ankle holster, appeared to be “fully functional” and “capable of being fired by a single hand." According to charging documents , Prestage told police at the time of the arrest that he had a permit to carry a concealed weapon in South Carolina. He does not have a permit to carry in D.C.  

Prestage, president-elect of the National Pork Producers Council, has been charged with a single count of possessing a gun outside a home or office, a felony that carries up to five years in prison.  

Three days after the arrest, Judge Frederick Scullin Jr. ruled in Palmer v. District of Columbia that D.C.’s complete ban on the carrying of handguns in public was unconstitutional. Scullin wrote that he was stopping enforcement of the law “unless and until” the city adopted a constitutionally valid licensing mechanism.  

In the immediate wake of the ruling, the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia indicated it was reviewing the impact of the order.  The city has since been granted  a 90-day hold. As D.C. officials decide whether to move forward with new gun control legislation or an appeal, prosecutors have stopped charging new cases of carrying a pistol, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday. Bringing a gun to Capitol grounds remains a violation of federal and D.C. code.  

The U.S. Attorney's office declined to comment on the likelihood of a deal in the Prestage case. Spokesman Bill Miller told CQ Roll Call the office typically does not comment on the possibility of plea negotiations, and had no comment beyond what was stated in court.  

Prestage, 59, is now scheduled for a preliminary hearing before Judge Frederick Sullivan on Sept. 10.  

A call to Prestage's South Carolina farm was not returned. Attorneys from Schertler & Onorato L.L.P., who have been hired to represent the pork executive, did not respond to calls and emails.  

Prestage was released from law enforcement custody on the day after his arrest, under the condition that he report weekly by phone to D.C. authorities.  

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