JERSEY CITY, N.J. — John Cramsey walked into Jersey City Superior Court wearing a green, jailhouse uniform; with his arms cuffed behind his back, he waited for his turn to speak.
Nearly three months after the 50-year-old was arrested at the Holland Tunnel after posting on Facebook that he was on his way to rescue a heroin-addicted teen in Brooklyn, Cramsey had a message for Judge Mitzy Gallis-Menendez, who will oversee his gun case.
“I’m not done helping this world,” Cramsey told her. “The world NEEDS people like me.”
Cramsey was busted June 21st on the Jersey City side of the Holland Tunnel, because Port Authority Police Officers who searched his souped-up ‘monster truck’ discovered loaded weapons inside, including an assault rifle.
Cramsey, who owned a gun shop and range in Zionsville, Pennsylvania, is co-founder of an anti-drug group called, “Enough is Enough.”
He said he had good reason for getting involved.
His oldest child, 20 year old Alexandria (known as Lexii), fatally overdosed on a mixture of heroin and the powerful painkiller, Fentanyl, on February 21.
Lexii was an aspiring model, and she’d done modeling jobs as far away as Mexico City.
After she died side by side in a warehouse loft with her boyfriend, Cramsey started tearfully appearing at numerous, town hall meetings in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania, which is struggling mightily with the heroin plague, must like many parts of New Jersey and New York.
Cramsey told the judge Wednesday, “This past Saturday was the hardest I’ve spent. My daughter would have turned 21. I couldn’t even light a candle for her.”
Cramsey’s been trying to get released since June, but the original judge on his case gave him a stiff, $75,000 cash bail. He couldn’t raise the funds.
His attorney, James Lisa, tried repeatedly to get the bail reduced or adjusted to a bond, without success.
Wednesday’s hearing was a last-ditch effort to get a different bail package before a new judge, Mitzy Gallis-Menendez.
“My client’s performed numerous extractions,” the lawyer told the judge, referring to Cramsey’s ‘rescues’ of young people from heroin hang-outs. “ He never resorted to violence,” Lisa said. “These guns were legally registered in Pennsylvania,” Lisa added.
The prosecutor responded, “You can’t transport a loaded assault weapon in New Jersey.”
Cramsey didn’t have any prior arrests, but the appellate division in New Jersey upheld the original cash bail. But this new judge who will oversee his case, which is expected to go before a grand jury next week, was troubled that Cramsey’s been held all this time without a formal, criminal indictment.
He’s been charged with seven counts of “unlawful possession of a weapon,”—charges that could carry five to ten years in prison, if he’s convicted.
The judge decided to ease his bail conditions, because of the prosecutor’s delay in presenting the case to the grand jury.
“We are sitting here on September 7th with no indictment,” Judge Gallis-Menendez pointed out to the prosecutor. “There is a change in circumstance” since the bail hearing in June, she added.
With that, Judge Gallis-Menendez changed the bail to $175,000 cash or bond. That means a bail bondsman could accept a much smaller amount of cash, like $3,000 to $5,000, and guarantee the rest of the bail in a bond.
Cramsey’s defense attorney, James Lisa, expected Cramsey to get released from Hudson County Correctional Center fairly soon. About ten supporters from Pennsylvania showed up in court Wednesday, applauding when Cramsey left the courtroom and whispering, “We’re praying for you, John.”
When Cramsey made his fateful journey on June 21st from Pennsylvania, he noted “I got a phone call at 3:30 a.m., to help a stranger.” PIX11 retraced his journey and learned the stranger was a teen from Wilkes-Barre, who woke up in a Brooklyn bedroom next to her dead friend, 20 year old Sierra Schmitt, also of Wilkes-Barre.
Schmitt’s godmother had spoken to PIX11 in June and told us how the girl had struggled with ADHD as a kid, later turning to heroin, and prostitution to pay for her habit, in Brooklyn.
Cramsey spoke in a hoarse, tired voice to the judge Wednesday, stating, “I’m helping people in prison now. That’s the only thing keeping me going.”
He told the judge about the hard times he’s fallen on, now that he’s been stuck in jail.
“I’ve been robbed in my house, robbed of my dignity, and my business has been robbed twice by my bad enemies.”
Cramsey’s lawyer denied his client would ever engage in vigilante justice. And Cramsey himself talked about his past as a firearm instructor—and gun owner.
“I pulled a gun twice in my life in self defense,” Cramsey told the judge, “in Pittsburgh and South Carolina. But I never fired. I defused the situation.”