Felon may have right to `just compensation' for guns police seized

Court rules Balto. County cannot keep the firearms

December 15, 2004|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A man who has been fighting for the return of guns seized by Baltimore County police after his 1999 conviction and sentencing for auto manslaughter may be entitled to compensation for them, the state's highest court ruled yesterday.

As a convicted felon, Robert L. Serio is not allowed to own firearms, but the county cannot keep his gun collection because he has not been convicted of illegally possessing the weapons, the Court of Appeals ruled. As a result, Serio may be eligible for "just compensation," the unanimous court said.

The court's opinion effectively sends the case, which has traveled through the legal system for nearly five years, back to Baltimore County Circuit Court for new hearings "to determine what to do with the guns," which have been stored in a police property room, said Baltimore County Attorney Jay L. Liner.

Serio's lawyer, William N. Butler, said at the time the lawsuit was filed that Serio intended to sell the collection of more than a dozen weapons and had lined up a buyer. Yesterday, Butler estimated that one of the guns is worth at least $30,000.

The guns were seized from Serio's Hunt Valley home June 2, 1999 - the day he was sentenced to six months in jail and a year of home detention in the death of 27-year-old Stacy L. Corbin. Serio had pleaded guilty to auto manslaughter, a felony, and to drunken driving.

Corbin was thrown from Serio's Porsche convertible when it crashed on York Road near Sparks on Oct. 8, 1998.

Serio, who was then executive vice president of a baking goods company, lives in Reno, Nev., Butler said.

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