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Man Caught with Assault Rifle in California Fails to Dismiss Charges


Unfamiliar with laws in different states could lead to unpredictable convictions

By Viviane Fairbank, Staff Writer

Kody Kinzie, 25, of Ashland, Ore., was arrested in 2011 after sheriff's deputies found an assault rifle in his car.

Kody Kinzie, 25, of Ashland, Ore., was arrested in 2011 after sheriff’s deputies found an assault rifle in his car.

The motion to dismiss charges against Kody Kinzie-Zinn failed yesterday (May 7), leaving him to face a lengthy trial and sentencing of up to 15 years in prison in Kern County, Calif.

Kinzie says his mistake was failure to familiarize himself with California laws before entering the state. It cost him three felony and two mis-demeanour charges.

Sheriff’s deputies arrested the Oregon native in Kern County on Christmas Eve, 2011, as he was driving back to his native town of Ashland, Ore., from Los Angeles. They confiscated 34 items from his car, including an M4 Carbine – the item costing Kinzie his potential 15-year sentence.

While assault rifles are legal in Oregon, where Kinzie bought the weapon, they are illegal in the neighbouring state of California.

In his call for donations on the website Fundrazr, in hopes of raising money for a private defence lawyer, Kinzie said, “I now clearly realize how stupid it was, but although I was intimately aware of (and in compliance with) Oregon gun laws, it just honestly never occurred to me they’d be so different state-to-state.”

Kinzie’s car, a den for his compulsive collection of “interesting things,” also contained a gas mask, a machete, a shotgun and what Kinzie calls “an imitation lightsaber letter opener.” These were seized along with other items and Kinzie’s computer and camera, evidence which the police took to mean potential domestic terrorism, according to Kinzie’s arrest report.

As a security guard working and living part-time in Los Angeles, Kinzie has been familiar with guns since the age of 18, and has taught several gun safety lessons, he says. After having a firearm stolen from him in 2008, Kinzie “resolved never to leave any firearm [he] owned unattended, be it in a vehicle or an apartment,” which is why he had his firearms locked in his car with him at all times, including the day of his arrest.

Kinzie was taken into custody, and given a bail of just under $80,000. Following the conditions of his bail, he has been living in California ever since, going through the proceedings of a court with constant interruptions.

Kinzie states in a YouTube video for Fundrazr, “I’ve had delay after delay after delay in this whole process, but I’m getting to the point that I can’t delay it any longer.”

After an unsuccessful stint with a first lawyer who “didn’t do his job,” Kinzie has been on Fundrazr in an attempt to raise $20,000 toward a new attorney. For now, he has raised about $685, and he is working with a public defendant, facing the threat of conviction in a court that he describes as “very prosecution-friendly.”

Despite these setbacks, Kinzie says that many people on the social media site Reddit have helped him to become more involved with the trial proceedings, suggesting his use of Fundrazr and advising ways to get in touch with gun law organizations.

“I’m not very enthusiastic or hopeful about how it’s going to come out,” said Kinzie in his video.

Though Kinzie has “good grounds for an appeal” on the failed motion, he says it will have to be made from within prison.

  • Kody Kinzie

    Hi, guy from the story here. I had gotten off work as an armed the day of, and was heading home for christmas. I had my gear bag with me in the seat (extra magazines, handcuffs, etc.) I was taking the ammunition out of the magazines, when someone looked into my car and reported me “loading a magazine,” which is about as dumb as unloading one, but also not illegal. A sheriff deputy followed me into a rest stop and held me at gunpoint, and the rest is history.

  • Laurie Lynn

    Hi Kody . We can’t even have plastic bags here in California, (this is an attempt at humor here, so don’t be offended) what on earth would make you think a “bag o’ guns” would be OK?) This state treats legal gun owners as if they are social pariahs. If the same kind of hate that is put on gun owners was put on Africa Americans or Jews, it would be considered a hate crime. How is your case progressing? Has it concluded?

  • Kody Kinzie

    It went pretty poorly, my lawyer left halfway through the proceedings after advising me to take a year in prison. The public defender did an okay job and almost had the whole thing thrown out, but that county is extremely friendly to prosecution. It was crazy. Eventually the district attorney was going so ham on me for no reason that the judge insisted they offer community service, so they gave me the most community service it was possible to give (almost 1500 hours) and I’m stuck in california for however many years of probation. I cannot. Wait. To leave.

    That being said, it could have gone a lot worse. The degree that prosecutors go after this is scary. When dealing with crimes that have no victim (this was purely a difference between state laws) fifteen years in prison seems like a really shitty welcome to california.

  • Laurie Lynn

    Well as I said, our lawmakers in California are not known for thier intelligence when it comes to guns (DeLeons “Ghost Gun”, the Bullet Button, etc) let alone they appear to work on the theory of a Tom Cruise movie (Minority Report – arrest & jail before a a crime is purpetrated, therefore negating the crime). California is a tricky state in that it’s monetarily politically liberal, but the people for the most part are middle of the road. There are many legal gun owners in California, as evidenced by the fact that in the last few years gun sales in this state have climbed to astronomical highs. But the laws as to what you can and can’t have vary drastically from County to County. Orange County is as tight as as a dolphins ass, whereas Stanislaus is much more gun friendly. What our crooked lawmakers are trying to do is legislate out guns and gun pinwheel, but only for the people. Not themselves. Buying a firearm, licensing, CCW etc is extremely expensive, and again varies from County to County.

    California is not a bad state, you just had a bad experience. And yes, it could have gone much worse for you. 1500 hrs. Community service sucks, but 15 years in prison sucks worse. It does put you in a unique place however, should you decide to stay in CA. You have the experience of being able to educate people and more importantly politicians, about how ridiculous many of their gun laws are. Especially if you were already working armed security and had been cleared to carry firearms. And then there is always the possibility of a civil suit against the State of California. And try to get an NRA or NAGR attorney.

    But while you are “stuck” here, try to enjoy our beautiful state. We aren’t all bad :)

  • Kody Kinzie

    Thank you! They really did their best to ruin my life, but since then I’ve started a project of artists (www.cythlin.com) and tried to keep focused on doing work that’s exciting, and recovering from the PTSD that that particular incident made way worse. As soon as I’m comfortable, I want to dedicate my work to bringing to light some of the insane abuses I’ve seen in the criminal justice system, as well as a few other things I’m passionate about (access to mental healthcare, options to help rather than punish poor people in difficult spots). Till then, I’m keeping my head down and working as a project manager to try to pay my bills till I have normal rights again. Thanks for your comments though, this was such a fucked up experience but I’ve met some really nice people. LA is brutal if you’re poor, but you’re right, there are some beautiful things here!

  • Laurie Lynn

    Well Kody, you know what they say : “that which doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.” :) just remember, our state isn’t bad, the majority of the politicians are lol. And for the gods sake, GTFO of SoCal. Nothing good can come from there lol

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