Witnesses describe guns found in home

Man accused of keeping loaded firearms charged with endangerment

Trial began yesterday

Police report finding girl asleep near weapons

Carroll County

April 27, 2004|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

The trial of a Carroll County man accused of keeping loaded firearms within reach of a sleeping 12-year-old girl began yesterday with state police investigators describing weapons they found in the man's bedroom.

Amir H. Tabassi, 55, of Mount Airy, a licensed firearms dealer, was arrested Aug. 5 after a police search yielded more than 100 weapons and gun accessories at his home. Among the weapons were 17 unregistered machine guns.

State police testified in court that they used a ruse to lure Tabassi to the Westminster barracks to serve a search warrant on him, his vehicles and his home after receiving a tip about the weapons.

The trial is one of two Tabassi faces on reckless endangerment charges - "the gross departure from conduct an ordinary law- abiding citizen would undertake," prosecutors said. Police reported finding two loaded handguns on the bed where police found a sleeping 12-year-old girl, described by Tabassi as the younger sister of a houseguest.

Prosecutors with the attorney general's office said the loaded machine guns, shotguns and handguns that were in her reach were also accessible to Tabassi's two young children who were visiting the house a day earlier. Another trial is scheduled on those charges.

Prosecutors presented witnesses who described Tabassi as cooperative. He gave police the keys to his red Mazda Protege and to his home, authorities said. In the car, police said they found a loaded semiautomatic handgun - a Glock Model 27 in a fanny pack - after Tabassi told them there were no firearms in his car. Tabassi also was charged with carrying a loaded firearm in his vehicle.

Witnesses told the jury of six women and six men that police later searched his home.

"The house was a complete mess," Cpl. Frank Lopez testified yesterday. The state police officer was the lead investigator in the case and is currently assigned to the Firearms Enforcement Section of the state police's criminal investigations division. "There was clothing on the floor, papers scattered everywhere, children's toys and flea traps on the floor. The house was filthy."

Defense attorney Byron Black told jurors that prosecutors would try to depict his client as careless, but the other side of story shows a licensed firearms dealer who was in the process of moving inventory into his business office at his split-level house.

Black also told jurors that Tabassi is a U.S. citizen who moved to this country more than 40 years ago. State police said he was a native of Iran.

Black said that Tabassi conducted firearms training for law enforcement agencies and that the two guests staying in his home also took those courses. He said Tabassi told them never to touch the guns or go into his bedroom.

When the girl was found in his bedroom, Black said that went against Tabassi's explicit instructions.

"No one was more shocked than Mr. Tabassi," Black said. "At no time did he give permission for anyone to be in that bedroom."

The gun dealer claimed that police overreacted to weapons he said were properly secured throughout his home.

Retired Judge Vincent J. Femia - who is presiding at the trial - ruled last month that state police must return the majority of Tabassi's weapons and ammunition. Femia said the weapons were outside the scope of the search warrant and necessary to the continuation of Tabassi's business.

Yesterday, jurors looked at enlarged diagrams of the house, photos of several rooms and boxed machine guns and handguns - "enough armament to win the Civil War," said Femia. Several times, jurors jumped when Lopez demonstrated the slide mechanism on the weapons.

Tabassi was in the news in 2001 after leading police to a murder conspiracy involving reputed cult leader Scott Caruthers and other members of Beta Dominion Xenophilia, a Carroll County group that was said to believe Caruthers to be a space alien and messiah.

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