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Freed New Jersey Man Wants Gun Conviction Overturned

Brian Aitken

Brian Aitken, 27, seen here in an undated photograph, was sentenced to seven years in prison for guns his attorney and father claim were owned legally. Some experts told FoxNews.com the entrepreneur was a victim of the country's "patchwork" of gun laws.

A New Jersey man whose seven-year prison sentence was commuted this week and is now seeking to get his felony gun charge conviction overturned blamed judicial "bullying" for his guilty verdict. 

Brian Aitken told Fox News on Thursday that he is armed with an e-mail he claims he received earlier this week from a juror who told him that then-Superior Court Judge James Morley pushed the jury into obtaining a conviction.

"Interestingly enough, I got an e-mail from one of the jurors a night or two ago, and he told me, 'You know, we all pretty much knew what was going on. We knew the judge was bullying us to this position. That's why we came back three times and asked for the exemptions,'" Aitken said.

Aitken, an entrepreneur and media consultant with no prior criminal record, was arrested in January 2009 in New Jersey for possession of two locked and unloaded handguns he legally purchased in Colorado but didn't have a carry permit for in the Garden State. 

He was later convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison in August. But after serving four months in a New Jersey prison, the cause célèbre for gun advocates was released after  New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie commuted the sentence on Monday. 

He says he now wants to clear his name.

"Technically, I am still a convicted felon," he said. "Everyone knows that I'm not guilty, but according to the law I still am."

Evan Nappen, Aitken's attorney, said an appeal seeking to overturn Aitken's conviction has been filed and is pending.

"We're on the way and we're in the process," said Nappen, who provided FoxNews.com with an e-mail purportedly sent from the juror to Aitken. "We're not withdrawing that appeal. Brian wants to be vindicated on the issue."

The e-mail, which could not be immediately verified, congratulated Aitken on his release and referenced how the jury was split on at least three separate occasions. 

"It is unbelievable how much power a judge possesses," the e-mail read. "Why wasn't the exception allowed by the judge??? Did he have something against you or your attorney???? Again, glad to see you are out."

Nappen told FoxNews.com earlier this month that Aitken qualified for a legal exemption to the carry statute because he was in the process of moving from his parents' home in Mount Laurel, N.J., to Hoboken. 

Nappen said the issue was raised both during the trial and in a pretrial motion to have the case dismissed, but Morley refused to provide the jury with the exemption statute.

Joel Bewley, a spokesman for the Burlington County prosecutor's office, declined to respond Aitken's claims on Thursday. But in an e-mail to FoxNews.com earlier this month, Bewley said "no evidence" was presented during the trial to support Aitken's claim that he qualified for an exemption because he was in the process of moving. 

"However, his roommate testified that they had been sharing the Hoboken apartment since June 2008, and that he had seen the guns at the apartment in September 2008," Bewley wrote. "[Aitken's] mother testified that he had been living in Hoboken and working in New York City since June 2008. This incident occurred in January 2009."

Morley, meanwhile, told FoxNews.com on Dec. 1 that his recollection of the trial record did "not establish" that Aitken was in the process of moving. He declined further comment.

Aitken, who appeared on Fox News with his girlfriend, Jenna Bostock, said he was transferred from his prison tier at New Jersey's Mid-State Correctional Facility to its hospital ward late Monday. At the time, he was unaware freedom was merely hours away.

When he finally learned he was about to be set free, a "shocked" Aitken said he was overwhelmed.

"I was just shocked, thankful, so thankful," he said. Of his four months behind bars, Aitken said: "There's not even words for it. It's terrible."

Despite his newfound freedom, Aitken insists he is innocent and wants to see his record cleared.

"That's why I never took one of the plea offers," Aitken told Fox News on Thursday. "[Prosecutors] approached me at least five or six times, telling me, 'Hey, cop out to it and do a year and then you'd be out free.' The entire time I was thinking to myself, 'How could I possibly look my son in the eyes, how could I ever possibly look anybody in the eyes if I copped out to something that I didn't do?"

He added that he never thought he'd be convicted because he was certain that "the jury was going to find me not guilty, you know, and I was going to walk away. And I had so much faith in the best of humanity."

For the time being, Aitken said he is happy to spend Christmas as a free man.

"Thank you and Merry Christmas," Aitken said to Christie on Fox News. "You've made my family's Christmas wishes come true."

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