Columbus man accused of bringing gun to movies pleads not guilty
By Sara Belsole
COLUMBUS, GA – The Columbus man accused of bringing a loaded semi-automatic handgun into a movie theater enters a not guilty plea.
Joshua Vardeman was scheduled to be arraigned in State Court Friday. He attorney appeared on behalf of him, waiving Vardeman's right to a formal arraignment and entering a not guilty plea.
“In a formal arraignment if it was held, is really just when you stand up in the court and the prosecutor would read the indictment or in this case accusation with the charges allowed to make sure the defendant understood them. We don't need that, I understand what the charges are, my client does,” Vardeman's attorney, Richard Hagler, says.
The charges against 23-year-old Vardeman have been modified slightly since his initial arrest. He is now formally charged with carrying a weapon in an unauthorized location, carrying a weapon without a weapons carry license and criminal trespass, all misdemeanor charges.
“The maximum for each charge is 12 months in jail so a total of 36 months in jail as well as a $1,000 fine on each charge,” Senior Assistant Solicitor General David Ranieri says.
Officials say Vardeman allegedly tried to bring a loaded gun into the Carmike theater on Whittlesey Boulevard for the midnight showing of 'The Expendables 2' on August 16th.
Hagler says the whole incident was a mistake. “There was no intent to harm anyone and I don't believe he ever intended to harm anyone. Certainly he is remorseful for ever having been put in this situation or having the attention on himself and his family.”
However the State Solicitor's Office says there is still a chance the charges could be bumped up to felonies.
“We are looking at a lot of it, we are looking at intent issues in this case, background issues, things that are going on with the defendant in this case,” Ranieri says.
But Hagler says that possibility is very small. “First of all, I don't think a felony occurred. Secondly I think it's very unlikely they could successfully elevate any of these charges to a felony.”
Hagler says this case got so much attention because it happened less than a month after the Colorado theater shooting.
“People have such a heightened levels of concern because of events like that that occur,” Hagler says.
If the State Solicitor's Office bumps the charges up to felonies, the case would be moved to the District Attorney's Office in Superior Court.