"Perot Jr. Beats Rap Over a Gun"

ROSS PEROT JR, Defendant

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

By Gil Bailey
P-I Reporter

BURIEN--H. Ross Perot Jr., pleading forgetfulness, was acquitted yesterday in Southwest District Court of carrying a concealed weapon through a checkpoint at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

A six-member jury rendered the verdict after about 50 minutes of deliberation, although Perot, the son of the Texas billionaire and former presidential candidate, admitted on the witness stand that he had put the pistol in a carryall bag he had at the airport. The incident occurred in May.

His defense was simple: "I forgot."

The jury bought it, according to foreman Rod Korsmo of Seattle.

He said the jury quickly decided that a "prudent man" would not knowingly carry a weapon through a check-point.

"The gun was out of sight, but not hidden, not conceiled," Korsmo said.

In his instructions to the jury, District Court Judge Richard Thompson told jurors that Perot's not knowing he had the weapon was a "complete defense" under the law.

The incident occurred during a business trip from Dallas to Philadelphia and then Seattle, the jury was told. Perot said he flew in a private plane to Philadelphia, clearing airport security there with the bag and weapon, then flew to Sea-Tac. He was leaving Seattle when the gun was found.

Perot, a land-developer with holdings around Fort Worth's Alliance Airport and with interests in transportation, was pleased with the verdict.

"I like Seattle," he said afterward, "I apologize to the people of Seattle for all the trouble."

On the stand, Perot explained how the fully loaded black Walther .380-caliber automatic pistol got in his bag.

The gun had been in his office because of threats to him and his family, Perot said. He tossed it into the bag to take it home to clean, he said.

Then, he forgot that the weapon was there when he packed the bag with his business papers the morning of his trip.

Perot also placed a cellular phone, spare batteries and a recharger in the same pocket of bag. He said he did not realize that the gun was there until it was detected by an X-ray machine at Sea-Tac May 28.

"I was surprised and embarrassed," said Perot, a former Air Force pilot who frequently deals with the Federal Aviation Administration. He also noted that he travels under an assumed name, uses off-duty police for security when required and does not need a gun on trips.

"The last thing he would want to do is to bring shame to the Perot family name," said his attorney, David Allen.  Allen said Perot never would have knowingly taken the weapon through the airport check-point.

Tod Bergstrom, deputy prosecutor, pointed out that Perot had admitted placing the gun in the bag and had conceded that he does not have a King County concealed weapons permit.

He compared Perot to a teenager who had been told he could not use the family car but did so anyway. Then, when caught, pleads "I forgot."

"Mr. Perot simply did something stupid. There was no motive," Bergstrom told the jury.

But Bergstrom said the prosecution would not have asked for a maximum sentence -- 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine -- if Perot had been found guilty.

"He is not exactly a threat to the community," Bergstrom said.

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