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Attorney Subpoenas Erie County In Gun Case

(WBEN/AP) The attorney representing an Amherst man whose guns were briefly taken away from him  earlier this month, is in court today to try and bolster claims that the New York State Police are illegally looking at medical records as part of a broad effort to seize guns from people on anti-depressants.

David A. Lewis, a college librarian from Amherst, had his  firearms returned from local police last week  after having turned them in as directed by a recent letter from the Erie County clerk. 

 Law Clerk Max Tresmond
& Erie County Chris Jacobs

After his attorney James Tresmond accused the state police of violating privacy laws by browsing Lewis's prescription records, the state police said the seizure was a case of mistaken identity, and that Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs didn't properly follow their instructions or do enough to verify Lewis's identity.

In court Wednesday for a civil suit Lewis is filing, Tresmond will subpoena Erie County for records the State Police submitted to Jacobs.

"it was hard to defend myself because we had to keep the information I received private.  ...They are subpoenaing me, and we are eagerly co-operating," Jacobs tells WBEN's Tom Bauerle.

 Jacobs says he only followed information sent to him by state police, after forwarding it to the judge who handles handgun permits. Troopers said their county notification first required county officials to follow up in determining if Lewis was someone who posed a threat to himself or others.

Max Tresmond, a law clerk for his father James says that a State Criminal Justice Service Department employee has come forward and confirmed to them that there is a 7 person squad in the department reviewing records that should otherwise be private.

"We have witnesses.. independent sources that have confirmed there was a HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. ) unit created... they were tasked with dealing with (privacy)  problems as they relate to .. investigation of gun permits," Max Tresmond says.

The state's new gun law requires mental health professionals to tell authorities of a patient likely to hurt someone, starting a process meant to determine if their guns should be surrendered.

State Police Superintendent Joseph D'Amico said earlier this month that the seizure of Lewis's guns were not as a result of any special unit, but rather were a misidentification based on a common name. The report actually concerned a third man in another county who did not have a gun, he said.

"In the last month we sent out just over 30 letters," D'Amico said. He didn't immediately know how many resulted in surrendered firearms.

The letters to the counties advise them to complete due diligence before suspending someone's permit, D'Amico said. He noted that troopers have no authority for revoking or suspending gun licenses. The counties determine that, he said.

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