A veteran of the U.S. Navy and decorated retired police detective is suing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other state officials for infringing on his constitutional rights after his pistol permit and four handguns were confiscated after he voluntarily sought hospital treatment for insomnia.
Donald Montgomery filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York in Rochester on Dec. 17.
He alleges that his constitutional rights were violated by New York’s SAFE Act – a law Cuomo signed in Jan. 2013 that is considered one of the toughest gun control laws in the U.S.
Montgomery’s woes began on May 6 when he sought treatment from his primary care physician for insomnia, which he said he had been experiencing following a move from another state.
Montgomery and his wife had moved from several hundred miles away in order to be closer to their adult child and grandchild. The move involved the purchase of a new home and the sale of an old one, Montgomery’s complaint states.
Several days after his initial doctor visit, Montgomery went to the emergency room at Eastern Long Island Hospital, still complaining of insomnia.
Staff there diagnosed Montgomery with “Depression; Insomnia” and he was prescribed medication and told to report back to his primary care physician if symptoms worsened over the next several days.
Montgomery went back to the hospital on May 23 with the same complaint. He stayed at the facility for 48 hours.
Though Montgomery voluntarily sought treatment, he alleges in the suit that staff at the facility erroneously listed him as an involuntary admission – a designation that appears to have put the SAFE Act’s wheels in motion.
The SAFE Act created a new section under New York’s Mental Hygiene Law which requires mental health professionals to report individuals who are deemed threats to others or to themselves to mental health directors who in turn report serious threats to the department of criminal justice services.
But none of the records or diagnoses from Montgomery’s hospital visits support that criteria, the suit claims.
“Nurse’s notes” from Montgomery’s stay show no documentation of mental health issues.
“Patient has no thoughts of hurting himself. Patient has no thoughts of hurting others. Patient is not having suicidal thoughts. Patient is not having homicidal thoughts,” the notes read.
A psychological assessment labeled him “mildly depressed,” but otherwise determined “there is no evidence of any psychotic processes, mania, or OCD symptoms.”
“Insight, judgment, and impulse control are good,” the assessment reads.
Montgomery’s suit also states that a hospital psychiatrist told him “You don’t belong here” and “I don’t know why you were referred here.”
Montgomery’s suit states that he was not labeled a mental defective, nor did he meet the criteria for an emergency mental health admission.
But Montgomery’s records were somehow referred to the Mental Hygiene Legal Service, which is an agency which represents and litigates on behalf of individuals receiving services for mental disability.
Four days after leaving the hospital, New York State police sent a letter to the Suffolk County clerk’s office stating “has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been involuntarily committed to a mental institution” and that he was prohibited from possessing any firearms.
The next day, Montgomery received a call from an officer at the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department informing him that his guns would have to be confiscated.
Montgomery says that on May 30, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department showed up to his house and confiscated his pistol license and four handguns – Colt .38 revolver, Derringer .38, Glock 26 9mm, Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 380.
Montgomery, a 30-year police veteran who had reached the rank of detective sergeant and had won a Bravery medal, had obtained the four guns through various means over the years.
One was issued to Montgomery by his police department; Montgomery won another at police academy for being the top recruit; he bought another in 1975; he purchased the last one two years ago.
In early June, the sheriff’s department notified Montgomery that his pistol license had been suspended. By September, he was notified it had been terminated – making it officially illegal for him to own a firearm.
Montgomery’s suit alleges that his Second, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment protections were violated and that the hospital violated his privacy rights by sharing his medical information with state police. He demands that a judge strike down New York’s Mental Hygiene Law and that the state issue written notification to all individuals whose health information has been collected under the state law.