As the Glock Turns: Court Reverses Ex-Executive's Conviction

A Glock 9MM pistol Photograph by Tim Sloan/AFP via Getty Images

Never a dull moment at Glock.

The Austrian-based company manufactures world-famous semiautomatic pistols and Hollywood-ready melodrama. In the latest twist, the Georgia Court of Appeals has reversed the embezzlement and theft conviction of Glock’s former top U.S. official.

The ex-executive, Paul Jannuzzo, served as a leading voice of the gun industry in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Then he had a vicious falling out with Gaston Glock, the company’s founder. (As discussed in my bookGlock: The Rise of America’s Gun, the disagreement turned at least in part on the affections of the woman who became Jannuzzo’s wife.) Not long thereafter, Jannuzzo found himself the target of a racketeering prosecution in Cobb County, Ga., where Glock GmbH has its U.S. facility and is a leading corporate presence.

The appeals court said the statute of limitations on Jannuzzo’s alleged offenses had long since expired when the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office, acting at Glock’s urging, indicted the former executive in 2009. The prosecutor who brought the case, Pat Head, has since retired. His replacement, Vic Reynolds, would not appear to have much room to refile the case given the appellate court’s reasoning.

“If the appellate courts are telling us that this set of cases, from a legal perspective, are no good, as the new DA here, I have a concern about them,” Reynolds told the Daily Report, an Atlanta legal-trade publication. “I will tell you unequivocally if we do not believe it’s a meritorious case, then it will not go forward,” he added.

In March, Reynolds dismissed all criminal charges against a former federal prosecutor and two other men who had been accused of stealing funds from Glock Inc., the company’s U.S. subsidiary. The ex-federal prosecutor, James Harper, and his colleagues had worked for Glock in the early 2000s as part of an internal company investigation of the 1999 attempted assassination of Gaston Glock in Luxembourg. The unsuccessful contract hit was ultimately blamed on Gaston Glock’s former top financial adviser, who was convicted and sent to prison in Luxembourg. As I said, never a dull moment.

Introduced in the early 1980s, the large-capacity, durable Glock swiftly gained popularity in the U.S., first as a police handgun and later as a favorite of civilian firearm owners, professional athletes, rap artists, movie directors, and deranged mass killers. The squared-off, black plastic pistols—now widely imitated by other gun manufacturers—are used by an estimated two-thirds of all U.S. law-enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and the New York City Police Department.

Glock has always stirred controversy. In the late 1980s, gun-control activists tried to have the brand banned in the U.S., supposedly because its plastic construction could defy airport security screening. That contention turned out to be factually inaccurate, and the attempt to demonize the Austrian pistol only added to its notoriety—and sales revenue.

More recently, Gaston Glock and his ex-wife, Helga, have been feuding over hundreds of millions of dollars and control of the eponymous company, which they jointly started with a secondhand, Soviet-era metal press in their suburban Vienna garage. They went from manufacturing curtain rods to pistols in the space of only a few years. I have chronicled the Glock family dysfunction here and here.

Jannuzzo was convicted last year of siphoning corporate funds from Glock in a protracted conspiracy with yet another former company employee (who publicly confessed to the wrongdoing and testified against Jannuzzo). While Jannuzzo was awaiting trial in 2009, he fled to the Netherlands. He was extradited in 2011 from Amsterdam and jailed until he stood trial. He’s currently serving a seven-year prison sentence.

The appellate court did not address the merits of the multimillion-dollar embezzlement charges against Jannuzzo. One cannot help wondering whether, now that he’s protected by the statute of limitations ruling as well as the shield against “double jeopardy,” Jannuzzo will have more to say about life within the famous firearm empire.

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