HONG KONG (AP) — A Hong Kong court dismissed a gun charge Monday against a Washington state senator who had been arrested after he carried a gun into the Chinese territory in what he called an “honest mistake.”
Republican Jeff Wilson self-declared that he was carrying the gun at the airport Oct. 21, has a clear criminal record in Hong Kong and made his admission in an open manner, the prosecution said at the court hearing.
Principal Magistrate Don So approved the arrangement for a bind-over order rather than a plea to possessing an unlicensed firearm, saying he was inclined to believe Wilson was innocent.
The bind-over order requires Wilson to keep the peace and avoid committing further firearms offenses for two years. The magistrate said Wilson would be fined 2,000 Hong Kong dollars ($255) for breaching the order if he doesn’t comply.
With the case dispensed without a conviction, Wilson is free to leave the territory. A statement posted earlier on the Longview lawmaker’s website had said that while the gun was not registered in Hong Kong, it is registered in Washington.
Hong Kong has stricter gun laws than the United States. Those convicted of carrying a firearm without a license can be fined up to 100,000 Hong Kong dollars ($12,800) and sentenced to up to 14 years in prison.
According to his website, Wilson was traveling with his wife for a five-week vacation in Southeast Asia. He discovered the weapon during the flight between San Francisco and Hong Kong, it said.
The court heard that Wilson had told a customs inspector it was “a horrible accident” after his arrest. His luggage had passed through security in Portland before he transited in San Francisco, he said during an earlier interview with the inspector.
In a statement published on his website on Monday, Wilson said he was relieved that the matter could be resolved efficiently and apologized for the concern he created. He said he packed quickly and failed to check thoroughly what was inside his briefcase.
“This was a mistake on my part, and I regret it,” Wilson said.