House speaker’s fine cut after bringing loaded gun to airport

By: - January 24, 2019 11:27 pm

Christine Greig (left), Dana Nessel (center) and Lee Chatfield (right), talking about civil asset forfeiture legislation at the Capitol on Jan. 9, 2019 | House Republicans photo

Updated, 6:40 p.m.

Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield only had to pay half the fine he was originally slapped with after bringing a loaded, unregistered handgun to an airport last summer, The Detroit News reported.

The Levering Republican paid $1,960 to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) after he brought the weapon to the Pellston Regional Airport in Emmet County, Chatfield told reporters after a taping of WKAR’s “Off The Record,” according to the News.

Lee Chatfield addresses the Michigan House on the first day of session, Jan. 9, 2019 | NIck Manes

Chatfield was originally fined almost $4,000, but the cost was slashed because he paid it within 30 days, the News reported.

“That was an expensive mistake,” Chatfield told reporters.

In July, he apologized over the incident and Emmet County Prosecutor James Linderman did not prosecute him. Linderman has given Chatfield more than $600 in campaign donations.

Michigan law pertaining to guns in airports isn’t up-to-date with federal law. Linderman said the law is therefore “unenforceable,” the News reported.

Chatfield reportedly carries a concealed pistol regularly and has said he accidentally brought one he seldom uses. He said he forgot it was stowed away in a bag he was traveling with.

The speaker appeared in national news over the last week for inviting President Trump to deliver his State of the Union address in the Michigan House. Chatfield tweeted on Wednesday that he had talked to Trump, who said he wouldn’t be giving the speech in Michigan.

The liberal group Progress Michigan last year released a 34-minute video of the airport incident. In the video, a law enforcement officer in Emmet County seems to reassure Chatfield, who sits across from him in handcuffs, that criminal prosecution in cases like that are rare.

“I don’t believe that’s happened that I’m aware of in the cases that I’ve dealt with,” he says.

Later, the officer remarks, “It’s small,” racking the slide on the gun.

“Yeah, you know, I wear a lot of suits,” Chatfield said.

“Gotta keep it small,” the officer says. “I hear ya. Summertime I’ve got a small one I’m always carrying, too.”

The officer later offers Chatfield instructions on how he can pick up his pistol from the evidence room if the prosecutor decides to not press criminal charges.

By the end of the interview, Chatfield’s handcuffs are removed.

“Assuming this truly is a mistake, you picked probably the right place to do it,” the officer tells him. “Because, like I said, a lot of those bigger airports, as far as I’m led to understand, you’ve got a one-way-ticket right to the jail.”

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Michael Gerstein
Michael Gerstein

Michael Gerstein is a former Advance reporter covering the Governor's office, criminal justice and the environment.