New Jersey: Man Red Flagged by Doctor For Angry Phone Call

Middletown, NJ — A surgeon and his lawyer have petitioned a local judge to remove a Middletown man’s gun after he made an angry phone call following a surgery that left the patient in worse pain than before.

Dr. Matthew Kaufman of The Plastic Surgery Center in Shrewsbury, NJ has retained James Maggs as his attorney in the case.  They are testing out New Jersey’s two-month old red flag law.

The Background

Kaufman performed a surgery on one Alfred Conti, but Conti’s surgery was unsuccessful.

Conti made a call to the surgery center for help with the intense pain he was in but was unhappy with the follow-up he received.  Upset and in pain, he went online and left negative reviews for the Surgery Center.

After the ‘aggressive’ phone call and the negative reviews, the plastic surgeon dismissed Conti as a patient—leaving him in intense pain, and with nowhere to turn.  Even after he was dismissed as a patient, Conti called again, asking for help with the pain.

Because of the negative reviews, Dr. Kaufman contacted Attorney Maggs and began a defamation suit against Conti.  Conti was apparently told to contact the lawyer directly, instead of contacting the surgery center.  Maggs decided to record the next call with Conti for use against him in the defamation suit.

Still in pain, Conti did call the lawyer again.  He was in pain and upset at being given the brush-off.  Maggs said of the call, “It started out the first few seconds a normal call then quickly he became agitated.  His overall demeanor I felt became threatening and I became alarmed.”

During the recorded phone call that was played for state Superior Court Judge Paul Escandon, Conti evidently said that he knew where the surgeon and the lawyer lived. He also used expletives and said he was going to bring police and media to their office.

Just to be clear, police and media = negative attention.  People who plan to hurt other people don’t typically call the police and news cameras and ask them to come along for the ride.  The fact that Conti was going to bring media and the authorities should have told Maggs and the judge that he has no violent intentions.   In fact, it would seem like he was telling them he knew where they lived because he intended to bring the police and media to embarrass them even in their homes.  But of course, the lawyer knew that he could convince a judge that Conti meant the comment as a threat.

There was a preliminary hearing in September, where the judge stated he won’t make a final decision until December 12th.  Meanwhile, police were sent to Conti’s house and his firearms and ammo were confiscated on September 25th.  Conti owned three pistols, a revolver and a rifle.

Did Conti ever threaten the lawyer or the doctor?  No.  Did he say anything about guns or shooting?  No, the lawyer looked at Conti’s facebook page and saw “references to guns.”

Additionally, unlike many states, New Jersey’s Red Flag law doesn’t have an automatic expiration date.  If you are red flagged in New Jersey, your gun rights are gone until the judge reinstates them.  That means that Conti could lose his gun rights for the rest of his life because he said that he knew where the lawyer and surgeon lived.  A stupid comment, sure, but even Lawyer Maggs admitted in court it wasn’t a threat.  Just that he had FELT threatened by Conti’s angry tone.

During the hearing, local officers didn’t seem to think that Conti was an unhinged danger to himself or others.  “He was very cooperative in assisting us and his conversation with us,” said Dan Campanella, a patrol officer with the Rumson Police Department.  “As far as (discussing) what had occurred, he maintained he never threatened anybody and has rightful grievances with both parties.”

Conti has no previous run ins with the law, has not been charged or convicted of a crime.  He has never threatened himself or anybody around him.  And yet Red Flag laws are being used to disarm him—possibly for life!—over a dumb comment made in passing while he was in pain.

This is why red flag laws are a threat to the rights and liberties of the citizens!