A part-owner of an Aberdeen pawn shop has been charged with obstruction of justice in connection with a 1992 gun sale between the shop and the Aberdeen Police Department.
State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli declined to comment on the details yesterday of the charges against James Carter Bays, 37, of J&K Associates Inc. at 2145 Pulaski Highway, because of an impending trial.
Mr. Montanarelli said, however, that they relate to the Nov. 12, 1992, sale by the Police Department of surplus weapons to the pawn shop.
That sale was investigated by the Office of the State Prosecutor as part of a five-month probe into the city's Police Department.
The investigation stemmed from allegations of mismanagement and improper bookkeeping by Police Chief John R. Jolley.
In his July 2 report, Mr. Montanarelli wrote that it appeared the gun sale was "not in accord with [Aberdeen] Code requirements," which state that property seized by the police must be disposed of at a public auction, public or private sale or other disposition as designated by the commissioners.
"Implicit in this duty," he said in the report, "is the precept that if the property is to be sold or auctioned, the city should obtain the best [highest] price available."
In addition, another section of the code spells out under what conditions a town employee can buy surplus property, stating "No town employee shall be eligible to purchase a reserve surplus, abandoned, seized or other property owned by the town except by public sale."
This means, the report added, that if a police officer wants to buy a seized weapon that is declared surplus, it must be bought from the bidder who purchased it, provided there is no collusion between the officer and the bidder.
Mr. Montanarelli said the Nov. 12 gun sale, in which the pawn shop successfully bid on more than 20 guns and paid $1,065 for them, "contained many irregularities" that he would not comment on but that will likely come out in Mr. Bays' trial, scheduled for Nov. 15.
Mr. Bays and his attorney, John Bays, who is his brother, declined comment yesterday.
Mr. Montanarelli said Chief Jolley, who paid $150 for two Smith & Wesson handguns, bought back from the pawn shop for his private collection, did not commit any wrongdoing concerning the sale, which was negotiated by police Cpl. Tony Burke.
Corporal Burke has been granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for his cooperation in the investigation.
According to Mr. Montanarelli's report, Chief Jolley did ask Corporal Burke to get a "good price" for the two guns he wanted, but did not direct Corporal Burke as to how to negotiate the sale.
As such, Mr. Montanarelli said, Chief Jolly cannot be held criminally responsible for the acts of others unless he had knowledge and willfully participated in their misdeeds.