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United States v. Holtzhauer

November 21, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Holschuh

Magistrate Judge Abel


Defendant Francis J. Holtzhauer is accused of bringing a gun into an airport security area in violation 49 U.S.C. § 46314(a). On October 11, 2006, a trial to the Court occurred in this matter.

I. Finding of Facts

On July 11, 2005, defendant Francis J. Holtzhauer entered an area of the Port Columbus International Airport serving air carriers. He had in his possession a green garment bag and a brown, soft leather briefcase. A loaded Kel Tec 32-caliber pistol was in the briefcase. When the briefcase went through the x-ray screening device, TSA security screener Yolanda White saw an object she thought might be a gun. She re-ran the briefcase through the machine. Holtzhauer passed through the magnetometer and was waiting for his carry-on luggage. When he saw the screener re-run the briefcase through the x-ray machine, Holtzhauer said, "Oh my God, I left the gun in the briefcase."

Holtzhauer told White that the bag was his. White called her supervisor, who summoned the Columbus Regional Airport Authority police. Holtzhauer told the screeners and the police that there was a loaded gun inside his briefcase. Police officer Stephen Lawson asked where the gun was located inside the briefcase. Holtzhauer told him that it was in a zippered compartment.

The Kel Tec 32-caliber semi-automatic pistol weighed 6.6 ounces, unloaded. A magazine weighs 2.8 ounces. The gun and two magazines were in a blue bag that was zipped shut and locked with a small luggage combination lock.

Holtzhauer was cooperative with the officers. He told them that he knew he could not carry a firearm on board a commercial aircraft. Holtzhauer explained the circumstances that resulted in his forgetting that the firearm was in his briefcase. He told the officers the same version of events that he testified to at trial.

Holtzhauer is 57 years old. He holds a BS in biological science and both a masters and doctorate in preventive medicine. His work experience includes seven years as an epidemiologist for the Ohio Department of Health, 13 years as an Assistant Health Commissioner for the Columbus Health Department, and three years as a Deputy Director of the Ohio Department of Health. He is currently a clinical associate professor of health at the Ohio State University. One of his primary duties is to prepare educational material for and train health care professionals to be first responders in the event of a terrorist biological attack.

Holtzhauer has had a lifelong interest in guns and in law enforcement. He has had more than 300 hours of law enforcement training. In high school, he was on the varsity rifle team. At the University of Dayton, he was a member of the ROTC rifle team. He has had a significant amount of training in firearms. He is a certified instructor and range safety officer. He volunteers to work with the Ohio State University pistol club, and he shoots on the Ohio State University intramural pistol club. He competes with the International Defensive Pistol Association and the Practical Pistol Association. He has been involved with a Steel Plate Shooting group. From time to time, he has done trap and sporting clay shooting. Holtzhauer is a vintage military weapons restorer. He has occasionally shot black powder. He currently owns 57 firearms.

After college, Holtzhauer applied for a position as, and was accepted to be, an FBI special agent. However, he ended up not taking the position at the last moment because his wife objected. He did, however, work 8-10 hours a week as a police officer for a number of years. After 9/11, Holtzhauer volunteered to become a member of Ohio's military reserve. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant and later was promoted to first lieutenant. But a severe back impairment forced him to resign after 14 months.

Holtzhauer suffers from two medical impairments that played a role in his arriving at the airport with the Kel Tec pistol in his briefcase. Since he was 21 years old, Holtzhauer has suffered from irritable bowel syndrome. Over the years, he has learned to manage the condition fairly well. But he does suffer flareups.

In 2003, Holtzhauer underwent a spinal fusion at multiple levels of his lower lumbar spine. It took him a long time to recover from the surgery. He cannot lift more than 30 pounds; and he has to be careful how he lifts.

On the afternoon of July 8, 2005, Holtzhauer taught a four-hour class to a group of 40 health care professionals who were just beginning to pursue a Masters of Public Health degree. The class ended at 6 p.m., and Holtzhauer did some additional work and left for home at 6:30 p.m. He and his wife had plans to spend the weekend ...

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