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Ohio man with gun at Batman movie acquitted on weapons charge

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - An Ohio man arrested after he brought a handgun and knives to a late night showing of the Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises", two weeks after the Colorado theater mass shooting last summer was acquitted on Friday of a felony weapons possession charge.

Prosecutors had accused Scott A. Smith, 38, of being drug addicted and in possession of a weapon, a felony that calls for up to five years in prison in connection with the incident last August at a suburban Cleveland movie theater.

Smith this week pleaded guilty to two counts of carrying a concealed weapon, but rejected a deal on the more serious felony possession charge that required him to give up his weapons collection and barred him from owning guns in the future.

Prosecutors accused Smith of being addicted to prescription pain and anti-anxiety drugs and using marijuana to help himself sleep, making it illegal for him to possess firearms.

Smith would stockpile his pain medication and take it intermittently or not at all, at times clouding his judgment, Assistant County prosecutor Aaron Brockler told Cuyahoga County Judge Kathleen Ann Sutula in the bench trial.

Sutula found, however, that prosecutors failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the prescribed drugs adversely affected Smith's judgment, that he was stockpiling pain medication or that he was drug dependent.

Smith was arrested August 4, when he tried to enter a theater carrying a military style bag that is commonly used to carry firearms, about two weeks after the Colorado theater rampage that left 12 people dead and five dozen wounded.

An off-duty officer at the suburban Cleveland theater asked to check the contents of Smith's bag and found a loaded Glock 9mm semiautomatic pistol, two extra loaded clips, three knives and medical supplies.

A search of his house turned up a cache of rifles, shotguns and handguns as well as thousands of rounds of ammunition. Ohio law requires the state to return the weapons, ammunition and bullet-resistant vests removed from his house.

Smith told Reuters after the trial on Friday that he planned to sell most of the firearms if they are returned to him. He said the firearms alone were worth $18,000.

When asked why he had such a large collection of rifles and handguns, Smith replied, "It's my Second Amendment right. I also have 15 different fishing poles."

The proposed plea agreement Smith rejected also called for him to serve nine months in jail. Smith could be sentenced to up to 18 months in prison on the weapons charges. His sentencing is scheduled for March 15.

(Editing by David Bailey, Cynthia Johnston and Carol Bishopric)

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