Retired Sgt. Maj. Louis DiNatale, charged with unauthorized possession of a weapon at the Canadian border last year, has been found not guilty by a Canadian court, his lawyer said Monday.
DiNatale was acquitted of all the charges against him, said Bruce Engel, his Canadian attorney.
"We were going for acquittal all the way, and we got it," Engel said, adding that his client was emotional and "thrilled" at the verdict.
"It's been a very tough year for him," Engel said.
DiNatale, who served for 23 years and was a paralegal specialist, had originally faced up to three years in prison if convicted. He faced two criminal code offenses and three customs offenses, Engel previously said.
They were: unauthorized possession of a weapon; possession of a loaded, prohibited weapon (this charge stems from the short barrel on DiNatale's handgun); failure to report goods imported into Canada; making a false statement; and smuggling goods into Canada.
The prosecution later dropped the smuggling charge because of a lack of evidence, Engel said.
Monday's ruling brings to an end a year-long ordeal for DiNatale and his family.
Last September, DiNatale and his wife, Cathy, were traveling from their home in Louisville, Kentucky, to Smugglers' Notch in Vermont for an anniversary getaway when their GPS took them off course to the Canadian border, Engel said.
DiNatale asked for permission to turn around and return to the U.S., but his request was denied, according to a Facebook page set up in his defense.
DiNatale was arrested after border agents searched his car and found a Bersa .380-caliber handgun.
A week before the trip to Vermont, DiNatale had put the Bersa in his wife's car because he didn't want it in his car when he went to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for a dental appointment, according to the Facebook page.
DiNatale forgot the gun was in his wife's car when they left for Vermont, according to the page.
"With weapons drawn, he and Cathy were handcuffed, arrested and interrogated by Canadian border authorities," the Facebook page states.
Engel previously told Army Times that DiNatale did not intend to cross the U.S.-Canada border, and that the search of his car was "unlawful."
Before Monday's proceedings in Brockville, Ontario, DiNatale was in court June 11. During that time, the prosecution presented its case against DiNatale. The defense presented its case Monday in the judge-only proceedings.
The gap in proceedings was due to the judge's schedule, and it was not unusual, Engel has said.
On Monday, after the defense presented its case, the judge ruled right away from the bench, Engel said.
"The judge believed [DiNatale's] explanation, that he forgot he had the gun," he said. "The evidence was very clear."
DiNatale's case is a stark reminder for Americans traveling into Canada.
"Our laws are a little more strict and serious than America's," Engel said. "Anybody who's an avid hunter, a military person, you've got to triple check and quadruple check. Make sure when you come to Canada that your gun is at home. You can have big problems if you don't."