A Matter of Appreciation
On his third tour in Iraq, Cpl. Melroy H. Cort was severely injured by an IED that cost him both of his legs. He was traveling in his privately owned automobile to Walter Reed Army Medical Center when he had a flat tire. Unable to change the wheel himself, he and his wife limped the car to a service station. There, he removed his handgun from the glove compartment and secured it underneath his jacket. Cort had an Ohio CCW license, and was anticipating an extended stay at Walter Reed. He had been advised by his commanding officer to transport the firearm with him to Walter Reed and have it secured in the armory there.
Unfortunately, a bystander saw the young black man secure the handgun underneath his olive drab jacket. Law enforcement arrived, handcuffed the wheelchair bound man, and placed him in jail. He was charged with three counts of carrying a pistol without a license, possession of an unregistered firearm and possession of ammunition. Felonies.
The first impact of a felony conviction for most gun owners is loss of gun ownership rights. For this young Marine, such a conviction meant the loss of the medical benefits that would allow him to walk again. The stakes were high. Cort's public defender advised him to plead guilty. Another day another dollar for the court appointed attorney.
Fearless in the face of overwhelming odds, Cpl. Melroy H. Cort fired the lackluster lawyer, and took on the role of defending himself. He would be judged by a jury of people not quite his peers. Cort tried to tell the jury his story, how he enlisted in the Marines after achieving a business degree from Wright State University in Ohio. He tried to tell the jury how he was on his third tour of Iraq when he lost his legs in the service of their country. Judge Lynn Leibovitz declared the testimony inadmissible.
The arresting officers described how Cort surrendered peacefully and how he behaved cooperatively. Although they may have seen a black man with a gun at the time of the arrest, I can not help but think Cort now had the officer's profound respect. But would the jury?
On January 13, 2008, a jury acquitted Corporal Melroy H. Cort of all felonious charges. He was convicted of possession of ammunition, a misdemeanor. He would keep his medical benefits and the chance to walk again. Cort was sentenced to time already served. "I had to fight for myself..... I wasn't going to plead guilty and lose everything," said Cort. He and his wife are returning to Columbus Ohio, where she works in real estate. Cort plans to appeal the misdemeanor conviction.
It is my sincere hope that Corporal Cort applies the same fearlessness to rehabilitation with two new legs. Semper Fi.