By Michael Morton
Patrick Burk, 34, of Los Angeles was charged with criminal possession of a weapon and was arraigned in Queens Supreme Court last Thursday, a spokeswoman for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said. He must return to court Feb. 3 and could face up to 15 years in prison if later convicted.The California bodyguard was arrested Jan. 19 at JFK's Terminal 7 after he tried to check in his knapsack for a flight out of the city, the DA said. He told a ticket agent for United Airlines that it contained a handgun that was unloaded and in a locked case, according to a criminal complaint filed with the DA. The employee also allegedly found two magazines for the weapon, a black .40 caliber Mauser, inside the bag and alerted police for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the complaint said.Burk told a detective that he had a permit for the weapon for California and Florida but not New York, according to the criminal complaint. He also told the officer he came into the city Jan. 11 with the filmmaker Michael Moore to whom he said his employer, a California-based security firm, had assigned him to protect, the complaint said. It could not be determined if Burk flew into New York and if so, how he got the allegedly unlicensed weapon into the city.Burk's employer, Gavin de Becker of Gavin de Becker & Associates, wrote in an e-mail that the bodyguard was following the same procedure as police officers in checking in a locked and unloaded weapon and was not actually “armed” at the time of his arrest, making the issue of a permit or license moot.”He was not 'carrying' a weapon, as an early story reported,” de Becker wrote, noting that Burk had also been assigned in the past to protect former President Bill Clinton. “Advising the counter ticket agent is a routine procedure when police officers and security professionals travel.”The bodyguard's arrest was soon picked up by news reports because of his apparent connection to Moore. Moore won an Oscar in 2002 in the best documentary feature category for “Bowling for Columbine,” a film which satirized America's love of weapons.Burk's lawyer, Marc Greenwald, said the bodyguard's statements to police had been misunderstood, as his client had protected Moore in the past but was not currently assigned to him. “Hopefully, this will all be resolved amicably,” Greenwald said. “[Burk] is a decorated Marine who has no criminal record.”Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.