District of Columbia authorities said Wednesday that they will drop weapons-possession charges against syndicated columnist Carl T. Rowan, whose trial last week ended in a hung jury.
“While I continue to believe that Mr. Rowan, in fact and in law, committed the offenses for which he was prosecuted . . . the district’s ability to obtain a fair hearing in this matter has been undermined,” Frederick D. Cooke, corporation counsel to the district, said. “I don’t believe either Mr. Rowan or the government, in this case, can get a unanimous verdict.”
Rowan, reached in Kansas City, Mo., was asked if he was pleased that the charges were being dropped. He said: “I don’t want to categorize it in terms of happiness or glee, in light of statements the prosecutor made.”
The columnist, who has written and spoken in favor of restricting private ownership of firearms, was charged with using an unregistered handgun and ammunition in the shooting of a youth who came into his back yard for an unauthorized dip in the pool. Had he been convicted of both misdemeanors, Rowan could have been fined up to $2,000 and sent to prison for as long as two years.
Rowan’s attorneys argued that the columnist and his son, a former FBI agent who left the weapon at the elder Rowan’s home, had asked whether the gun had to be registered but were misled by police.
The District of Columbia Superior Court jury that heard the case became deadlocked last Thursday, reportedly with nine jurors for acquittal, and Judge Arthur L. Burnett declared a mistrial.