A former fast-food manager who shot himself in the leg when he brought a loaded gun to work lost his appeal to have his felony weapons conviction reduced to a misdemeanor.
The appellate judges decided that the McDonald’s restaurant where Akeem Wallace worked in June 2013 did not qualify as his “place of business,” and upheld his conviction. They also pointed out that McDonald’s specifically bans employees from bringing guns to work.
Therefore, Wallace was both breaking the law and violating the employee handbook when he had a loaded, illegal handgun in the dining area of the restaurant on Grider Street at East Delevan, and somehow pulled the trigger, shooting himself in the leg. The shot frightened customers but no one else was hurt.
In March 2014, State Supreme Court Justice Christopher J. Burns found Wallace, 23 at the time, guilty of criminal possession of a weapon, a Class C felony. Burns characterized Wallace’s behavior as “idiotic” but also noted he had no criminal record and sentenced him to the mandatory minimum of 3 1/2 years in prison.
At his trial and in the appeal, Wallace argued that his case fell under an exception in the law that says if a person is found with an illegal gun in his home or place of business, it can be charged as a misdemeanor.
Burns rejected that argument and so did four judges of the Appellate Division, who said that the exception is only intended for business owners.
One appellate justice, Stephen K. Lindley, did side with Wallace, saying “he undisputedly worked at the restaurant in question," which meant the crime could be deemed a misdemeanor. Lindley also said there is nothing illegal about violating the terms of an employee handbook.
The outcome does not have much effect on Wallace's sentence; he is eligible for release in March. However, if he had been successful in his appeal, he would have left prison with a misdemeanor conviction, instead of as a convicted felon.