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Driver Prison-Bound After Fort Lee Gun Stop

Defense attorney Adam Lustberg, George Santos
Defense attorney Adam Lustberg, George Santos Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia

FORT LEE, N.J. -- A Burlington County man who flashed an unauthorized New York City sanitation police badge in Fort Lee when an officer tried to pull him over for driving on the shoulder of Route 4 could be out of prison in a year after pleading guilty to illegally having a gun in the car.

Presiding Superior Court Judge Susan J. Steele said that 45-year-old George Santos showed a "serious character flaw" and "extremely poor judgment."

She also agreed with Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Daryl Williams that Santos didn't deserve to be freed under New Jersey's so-called safety valve law, enacted last year, that looks to avoid imprisoning law-abiding out-of-state residents who violate the Garden State's gun laws.

“I have heard of any number of cases like this with people who are passing through New Jersey," the judge added during the Sept. 15 sentencing.

Defense attorney Adam Lustberg argued that Santos has a gun permit allowing him to legally carry in New York, had no prior record, owns a business and was active in the community teaching anti-bullying classes.

Santos said two of his three children -- at 3 and 4 years old -- have special needs.

“I do acknowledge what I did was incredibly stupid," he told the judge. “In New York when you are outside the city limits, if you have a resident ID card you can possess the weapon. You have to have it in a box if you’re in the city. I also have a permit in Connecticut."

Williams, the assistant prosecutor, said Santos lives in Burlington County and should be aware of the law. He also noted that Santos’ New York firearms ID card says: “This permit is only valid while at the job.”

Santos had pleaded guilty to possession of a weapon without a permit, which carries a five-year minimum prison sentence.

NJ law requires guns be unloaded and in a locked box when being transported. Ammunition has to be in a separate locked box, and weapons can only be transported from home to business and back, or to a shooting range. Both boxes must be locked in the trunk.

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