NYC Man Convicted Over Gunsmithing Hobby After Judge Says 2nd Amendment 'Doesn't Exist in This Courtroom'

Dexter Taylor, a Brooklyn native who is currently under indictment for building and possessing rifles and pistols. (Credit: Dexter Taylor)

A Brooklyn man has been convicted of 13 weapons charges after having been arrested and charged in 2022 for building his own firearms. Dexter Taylor’s ordeal could become a landmark Second Amendment case in light of the Bruen ruling handed down in the same year.

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The jury found Taylor guilty of second-degree criminal possession of a loaded weapon, four counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, five counts of criminal possession of a firearm, second-degree criminal possession of five or more firearms, unlawful possession of pistol ammunition, violation of certificate of registration, prohibition on unfinished frames or receivers. Two lesser charges, including third-degree criminal possession of three or more firearms and third-degree possession of a weapon, were not voted on.

Taylor, a 52-year-old New York native and a software engineer, discovered the world of gunsmithing years ago. He decided to take it up as a hobby and possibly turn it into a business later. However, when a joint ATF/NYPD task force discovered he was legally buying parts from various companies, they opened up an investigation that led to a SWAT raid and arrest

He is currently being jailed on Rikers Island as he awaits sentencing. Taylor’s conviction highlights the ongoing battle for gun rights. During an interview with Vinoo Varghese, Taylor’s defense lawyer, he detailed how Taylor’s trial proceeded and highlighted a distinct bias in favor of the prosecution.

Varghese described how Taylor became fascinated by weapon science during the COVID-19 lockdowns, which inspired him to take up his gunsmithing hobby. “He ended up building, I believe it was eight pistols and five rifles or six rifles, AR-style rifles, and then eight or nine Glock pistols that he built,” Varghese said.

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In an interview prior to his conviction, Taylor told RedState:

I found out that you can actually legally buy a receiver and you can machine that receiver to completion, and you buy your parts and you put them together and you’ve got a pistol or a rifle. And once I saw that I was hooked. I was like, ‘This is the coolest thing ever. This is the most cool thing you could possibly do in your machine shop.’

From the beginning of Taylor’s trial, it was evident that the court would be biased against the defendant, according to Varghese, who explained that two judges presided over his case before the current official, Judge Abena Darkeh, took over.

The judge disrupted Varghese’s opening statement multiple times as he tried to set the stage for Taylor’s defense. Even further, she admonished the defense to refrain from mentioning the Second Amendment during the trial. Varghese told RedState:

She told us, ‘Do not bring the Second Amendment into this courtroom. It doesn’t exist here. So you can’t argue Second Amendment. This is New York.'

Varghese said he had filed the appropriate paperwork to “preserve these arguments for appeal” but that the judge "rejected these arguments, and she went out of her way to limit me.”

During the trial, the prosecution attempted to paint Taylor as a dangerous individual who was building dangerous firearms in his basement. In this vein, the prosecution objected to allowing Taylor’s family in the courtroom to show support, nor did they allow his upstairs neighbor, who knew about Tayor’s hobby, to testify on his behalf. Varghese described the prosecutor’s opening statement:

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He opens up, and he says that Mr. Taylor had a parade of horror. He was building this horrible place. When they saw this horror that he was making under the noses of his neighbors because all of those guns intended to hit their targets, basically implying that he was going to do some harm with these things.

When Varghese countered this narrative during his opening statement, the judge interrupted him again. “There’s no crime here, there’s no allegation of violence,” Varghese recounted, saying, “I got up and said, ‘You’re going to learn what Dexter is, who he is. You’re going to learn that he never fired these guns.’”

The judge interrupted again and asked the lawyers to come to her chambers for the second time.

Varghese explained that he believed the only chance of having the case go in his client’s favor was through jury nullification, which occurs when members of a jury believe a defendant violated a law, but decide against prosecuting them because they disagree with the law itself, or other reasons.

Judge Darkeh attempted to shut this argument down and led the jury to believe they would face consequences if they did not vote to convict Taylor. In reality, this is not the case. Jury nullification is not illegal, according to Varghese.

“I actually argued that jury nullification is allowed because there is some law from the High Court of New York that talks about lawyers who made jury nullification arguments. And basically, they said that judges shouldn’t encourage it, but they can’t prevent it. I actually made a pitch directly to Judge Darkeh to allow me to argue during nullification. She, of course, rejected that.”

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He added: “She basically said, ‘You must vote guilty’ without saying ‘you must vote guilty.’”

He characterized Judge Darkeh as “the most aggressive prosecutor in the room.”

On April 16, when it was almost time for the court to close for the day, the jury returned with a verdict. They found Taylor guilty of all but two counts. He was immediately taken into custody.

The lawyer described what happened after the verdict was read. “When the verdict was read, his mom started crying in the back, and he said to me: ‘Vinoo, please comfort my mother.’”

Varghese continued, saying Taylor also “turned around to his mother after the jury was done, he said to his mom, ‘God bless you, mom.’”

Taylor is scheduled to be sentenced on May 13, and it appears Judge Darkeh will likely make an example out of him to send a message to others who might consider building their own firearms in New York, according to Varghese. He could be facing between 10 and 18 years in prison.

However, the battle is far from over. Both Taylor and Varghese are committed to fighting this case to the end – even if it means taking it to the U.S. Supreme Court. “We have a shot at winning in federal court,” the attorney said.

Taylor’s family has set up a GiveSendGo campaign to help with his legal fees.

To learn more about Dexter Taylor’s case, you can watch our interview with him below:

.@DoniTheDon_ and I had a very serious conversation with @futureradiocast about his gun case in New York City.

The government is trying to lock him up for 18 years for manufacturing his own firearms.

Check out this clip.

I'll be writing about this later with more detail. pic.twitter.com/ymEZmQR3SB

— Jeff Charles, An Awful Pundit🏴 (@jeffcharlesjr) December 13, 2023
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