A former BGSU Firelands professor will be cleared of weapons charges as long as he stays out of trouble for the next two years.
Patrick Saunders, 62, pleaded no contest to improperly handling a firearm in a motor vehicle, a fourth-degree felony, and a visiting judge granted him diversion.
The diversion program requires him to be supervised by the court system for up to two years, and he'll have to pay the accompanying fees.
Saunders still isn't permitted on the BGSU Firelands campus after he made jokes about gutting an associate dean -- a separate infraction that earned him two years of probation and a fine -- but he said he's ready to put both ordeals behind him.
"It's time to move on," he said in a phone interview Thursday. "It's been kind of a learning experience, to say the least."
His attorney, John Allton, said although it was clear Saunders was guilty of a misdemeanor weapons charge, he agreed to plead no contest to a felony so he could be considered for the diversion program.
A Huron County grand jury secretly indicted Saunders in October for carrying a concealed weapon and improperly handling a firearm after a deputy found a loaded handgun in a saddlebag on his motorcycle. The deputy stopped him because he saw a large knife on his back holster, and a police dog identified some medication he was carrying in the saddlebag.
Saunders had kept the gun in his locked saddlebag inadvertently, Allton said, but it was still illegal.
Deputies mistakenly hauled him off to jail in November instead of issuing him a summons because of an apparent clerical error.
The agreement forged between Allton and Sandusky County assistant prosecutor Beth Tischler, acting as a visiting prosecutor, nearly included a provision that would have barred Saunders from suing the sheriff's office, but Allton said he successfully fought to remove that stipulation.
Now that his legal proceedings on both ordeals are finished, Saunders said he needs to take some time away from court before deciding whether to file a lawsuit over the wrongful arrest.
His next hurdle: earning back the privilege to walk onto the Firelands campus.
The school has maintained a civil ban against Saunders since he made comments in front of two students about gutting associate dean Andrew Kurtz while gesturing with a knife.
Saunders said he plans to request a hearing with the school administration in hopes that he might eventually be permitted to return to the campus -- if not to teaching.
Several years ago, he established a scholarship fund to help all students, particularly nontraditional students and veterans like himself, pay for books.
As long as he's banned from the school, he'll have to mail the scholarship checks instead of presenting them in person.
It's a cruel irony for a man who taught there for years and considered the school his second home, Allton said.