Should Stephen Colbert Be Prosecuted On Weapons Charges?

Stephen Colbert Wielding a Knife on Television

The original incident is old news, but the Village Voice has just posted a blog (note: video autoplays) about a 2010 episode of the Comedy Central show “The Colbert Report”, in which host Stephen Colbert whips out a knife and starts whittling a point onto a wooden stake (jump to 0:37). Normally this woudn’t be a problem, but as “The Colbert Report” is filmed in New York City, whose prosecutions of knife owners has been in the news this week, Mr. Colbert clearly runs afoul of the city’s interpretation of the state gravity knife statute.

According to the definitions outlined in New York Penal Code, Section 265.00:

“Gravity knife” means any knife which has a blade which is released from the handle or sheath thereof by the force of gravity or the application of centrifugal force which, when released, is locked in place by means of a button, spring, lever or other device.

The knife in question looks to be an assisted opening Benchmade 580 Barrage. Having handled assisted axis lock folders, I know it is possible to wrist flick the blade open without touching the thumbstuds or the locking bar, even though it was not designed to operate this way. In fact the blade is biased toward closure, meaning the “wrist-flick” involves the whole arm and shoulder in order to transfer enough energy to open the blade. Nevertheless, in the eyes of the NYPD and New York’s District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, Jr., it is a gravity knife, which would make Colbert guilty of criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree.

And yet nothing was ever done when this video surfaced (not that I think anything should have been.) Vance was too busy shaking down knife retailers like Home Depot and Eastern Mountain Sports–to the tune of $1.9 million–to investigate such a small, unprofitable violation.

I doubt any charges will ever be brought against Colbert, but if these knives are so dangerous that ordinary people can be locked up just for carrying them, without any proof of unlawful intent, shouldn’t Colbert be held to the same standard?

This will be another case of one rule for them, a different rule for us. Think of the time “Meet The Press” anchor David Gregory held up an illegal (in Washington, D.C.) 30 round magazine for an AR-15 while on the air, against police guidance, and still suffered no consequences.

That being said, I am not out to get Stephen Colbert. I think NYC’s interpretation is unjust and should be eliminated as soon as possible, with restitution to the people they’ve wrongly imprisoned. I just can’t stand the hypocrisy.

TTAK will always point out hypocrisy like this when we see it, because the more people find out about it, the higher the likelihood of change.


  1. billdeserthills says:

    He should be locked up

  2. MD Matt says:

    On the one hand, until public figures and influential people are forced to confront the reality of the laws that the rest of us suffer under, it’s going to be difficult to get the codes amended.
    On the other hand, an unjust law is an unjust law. I don’t want to see other people prosecuted—even if that prosecution has a bit of poetic justice to it.

  3. borg says:

    If they do no prosecute him they open the door to an equal protection claim that could potentially be used to rule the law unconstitutional as enforced and/or provide a means for a defendant to cite an equal protection violation as a defense in court.

  4. Roger says:

    I really want Colbert to go to prison for one simple reason: My brother became a true believer of the civilian arms confiscation movement. His wife is a hoplophobe of gigantic proportions. They, and myself, love Colbert. His arrest and incarceration would win any and all arguments about knife laws for eternity.

  5. Brocus says:

    If you actually believe that this is a law that should be enforced and that the guilty party is the actor and not someone in the prop department, then yes.

  6. borg says:

    The video may be compelling evidence that the law violates equal protection as enforced.

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Should Stephen Colbert Be Prosecuted On Weapons Charges?

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