Anti-drug activist pleads guilty to gun charges

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) - A Pennsylvania man arrested last year outside New York with a vehicle full of weapons on a self-described mission to rescue a teenager from a drug den pleaded guilty Monday to weapons charges, but said he would continue his battle against the scourge of drug addiction.

John Cramsey, of East Greenville, and two associates were arrested on the New Jersey side of the Holland Tunnel in June 2016. He told authorities they were going to rescue the girl. She died months later of an overdose.

Acquaintances said the gun range owner became an anti-drug crusader after his daughter died of an overdose last year. Cramsey posted online shortly before his arrest that he was heading from Pennsylvania to New York to "rescue" a girl whose friend had overdosed.

Police recovered a semi-automatic, military-style rifle, a shotgun, five handguns and tactical gear.

Asked after Monday's hearing if he would do what he did again, Cramsey, 52, said he would but would be more careful.

"I would have carried her out if I'd had the chance," he said. "I still would to this day. If I'd had to leave my truck there and run to get that girl, I would have."

Cramsey pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a gun and possession for an unlawful purpose. Each count carries a maximum sentence of five years with no parole for a year, but under Cramsey's plea deal his attorney can apply for a probationary sentence that wouldn't include prison.

Dean Smith, of Whitehall, Pennsylvania, and Kimberly Arendt, of Lehighton, Pennsylvania, were accepted this year into a pretrial intervention program. If completed, the probationary program can lead to charges being dropped. Cramsey was denied entry into the program, and attorney James Lisa said he is appealing.

In an interview with investigators played in court in June, Smith said that during the trip to New York, Cramsey told Arendt to load a shotgun and shoot anybody who followed them on their way back. He also characterized Cramsey as "a danger to himself and others."

Smith was driving Cramsey's neon-painted truck when the group was stopped. According to police, the vehicle was pulled over because it had a crack in its windshield and had some objects hanging from a rearview mirror.

The defendants contended they were actually stopped because of the truck's Second Amendment-themed decorations, and they sought unsuccessfully in court to have the search invalidated.

New Jersey has more stringent gun laws than Pennsylvania. It doesn't recognize carry permits from other states, and guns in cars must be kept locked and unloaded in a trunk or secure container.

Cramsey said that the notoriety the case brought him has made him a lightning rod in the battle against opioid addiction, and that he receives calls from people "all over the world."

"This is an ongoing thing, I don't stop. I don't go looking for it, it finds me," he said. "It's as much a curse as it is a blessing. It consumes me every waking moment of the day."

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