In September of 2013, Retired Army SGM Louis DiNatale and
his wife and high school sweetheart, Cathy, were on a weekend getaway to
celebrate their 26th wedding anniversary in Vermont.
SGM DiNatale is a disabled Army Veteran. With 23 years of immaculate active duty service, Lou was medically retired honorably from the U.S. Army in 2010. During his Army career, Lou served a tour in the Persian Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm), and Operation Joint Forge in the Bosnian Conflict. SGM DiNatale also made two deployments to Thailand for Cobra Gold Exercises. As a civilian, he has deployed to Afghanistan on two separate nine month deployments to Kandahar and Bagram Airfields.
Relying on their GPS device, Lou and Cathy took to the road in his Cathy's car. Their GPS device lead them astray, and they found themselves on Thousand Islands Bridge enroute to Ontario, Canada. With no way to turn around, they came to the Canadian border. Lou explained what had happened to the Canadian border authorities, and simply requested to turn around.
His request was denied.
The border agent began to ask questions, specifically about weapons. Lou was asked if he owned any weapons and why. Lou respectfully told the agent that he was an American citizen, and it is his right to do so. Lou also told the agent he is retired military, and has a concealed carry license. When asked if he had any weapons, Lou said "No".
In the week before their planned getaway, Lou had a dental appointment at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Not wanting to bring the firearm onto base, he put his .380 Bersa handgun in the center console of his wife's car, and forgot about it. The pistol was still in the center console when they accidentally ended up at the Canadian border. Lou had simply forgotten it was there.
Cathy's car and their possessions were searched. With weapons drawn, he and Cathy were handcuffed, arrested and interrogated by Canadian border authorities. The charge: attempting to smuggle a firearm into Canada, and lying about it. Lou spent the next five days sleeping on the floor of Brockville Jail with convicted criminals, and was deprived of medication he needs daily for his service related disabilities. Cathy spent their anniversary trying to find an attorney to help them, and trying to come up with the funds to facilitate Lou's release.
FACT: If Lou had remembered the pistol in the console and said "yes", he would have had to fill out a declaration form and pay a fine.
FACT: Lou and Cathy never intended to go to Canada, they never intended to deceive the Canadian authorities, and never attempted to smuggle a handgun into Canada. All they asked to do was turn around.
FACT: Lou is facing a three year prison term if convicted.
The financial toll has been devastating. They have sold both of their cars. They have maxed out all of their credit cards. They have emptied Lou's military retirement savings account. They have had to take out a loan. To date, they have paid $4,000 for release and hearing costs; $5,000 cash for bail, and $30,000 for a Canadian attorney for representation. With the possibility of another $10,000 in attorney's fees, costs to make hearings and court appearances, the financial burden is becoming a bottomless pit.
This honest oversight has cost Lou dearly. Cathy has an autoimmune disease that is exacerbated by stress. The toll this ordeal has had on the DiNatales emotionally and physically has been overwhelming. The stress has caused Cathy's health to deteriorate.
As Americans, we are protected under the Second Amendment, the Canadian authorities are using SGM DiNatale as an example in their hard line anti gun stance. This could have happened to any of us.
Please consider making a contribution to Cathy and Lou's defense fund. Every penny of every donation will go directly to the DiNatales. Together, we can help lessen the enormous financial stress by relieving them of the dire financial strain this has caused.
Please share this campaign. Please donate if you are able.
For updates, additional photos and other information, please visit the official In Support of SGM Louis DiNatale facebook page: www.facebook.com/SGMLouDiNatale
2/3/14 Los Angeles Times Story on this case can be found here: http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-canada-border-guns-20140203,0,745186,full.story#axzz2sPjaeIFO