Freshman Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, an arch-conservative and the Legislature’s only tea party member, was accused of two criminal counts for carrying a concealed gun without a permit and for possessing a loaded gun at an airport. The misdemeanor allegations, filed by the San Bernardino District Attorney’s office, each carry maximum penalties of 18 months in prison and $2,000 in fines.
Donnelly, one of the Legislature’s most outspoken defenders of gun rights, said he has “fully cooperated with law enforcement officials and have been candid about this matter publicly.” On Friday, he called in the incident “an innocent mistake.”
Connelly was held last month at Ontario International Airport after security screeners found a 45.-caliber pistol and ammunition in his luggage as he prepared to board a Sacramento-bound plane. Donnelly said the incident was an “unfortunate mistake,” and has said he carries a concealed weapon because he has received death threats stemming from his opposition to public services to illegal immigrants.
Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, was not arrested at the time of the Jan. 4 incident, but he was detained, cited and released. Donnelly, who was not present in court on Friday, was represented by local lawyer Rod Pacheco, a former district attorney and state lawmaker.
Airport police have arrested people on similar charges in the past, the Press Enterprise reported. Donnelly, however, was not arrested, giving rise to complaints from critics that he was treated too leniently.
At the time, Donnelly said he forgot that he had put a .45-caliber handgun in the briefcase while working in his garage, according to the Press Enterprise. He had the gun out as protection against what he said have been death threats related to his efforts to overturn a 2011 law making scholarship aid available to college students who are in the country illegally. He said he hid the gun in his briefcase after his wife, who did not know of the threats, returned home.
Donnelly is a small businessman who represents the 59th Assembly District, which stretches from Highland to the outskirts of Los Angeles. His next court hearing is scheduled for March 15.