When Lee Chatfield brought a loaded gun to Pellston Regional Airport in Emmet County, Michigan last summer he wasn’t jailed. He wasn’t even prosecuted. Now, Chatfeld hasn’t even paid his entire fine.
Chatfield, who paid less than half of his $4,000 fine to the TSA, is the Republican Speaker of Michigan’s House of Representatives.
He\s grabbed national headlines for inviting President Donald Trump to give the State of the Union address in Michigan’s House of Representatives, as the president is not invited to give it in the U.S. Capitol. Trump didn’t take Chatfield up on that offer.
“Assuming this truly is a mistake, you picked probably the right place to do it,” an officer told Chatfield. “Because, like I said, a lot of those bigger airports, as far as I’m led to understand, you’ve got a one-way-ticket right to the jail.”
That officer went on to compare guns with Chatfield.
And because Chatfield could afford to pay $1,960 within 30 days, he did not have to pay the full fine, according to comments obtained by The Detroit News.
Chatfield called the incident “an expensive mistake.”
He also had to pay a civil infraction because the gun, which was stashed in his carry-on bag, was not registered.
And it was an expensive mistake that Chatfield was able to ease thanks to having the financial ability to pay nearly half of the fine quickly, which is not an ability most Americans have.
“I’m a gun owner myself, I go hunting every year and things like that,” Sam Inglot of the advocacy group Progressive Michigan told Grit Post. “Some of the basic things they teach you are number one, know where your gun is; two, know if your gun is loaded or not; and then three, know how you’re able to legally carry and use that firearm.”
Progressive Michigan published the video of Chatfield’s brief arrest.
Inglot highlighted that Chatfield did not apparently know that the gun was in his carry-on, that the gun was loaded in a place Chatfield didn’t know about, and that the gun was unregistered in violation of law. He called this a “trifecta of failure” on the Speaker’s part.
He also pointed to a loophole in law, which was Leiberman’s reason for not prosecuting Chatfield. Progressive Michigan is determined to see that loophole closed. Inglot called on Speaker Chatfield to work to close the loophole that benefited him in this instance.
“Speaker Chatfield was able to get just a slap on the wrist for violating every principle of Gun Ownership 101,” said Inglot. “This situation shows there’s a major loophole in Michigan gun law that needs to be addressed.”
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.