Former State Senate Candidate Facing Weapons Charge in Niagara County

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. -- Late Wednesday night, Rochester native Andrew Hollister got a call. Gia Arnold, his longtime friend and former state Senate candidate, had been arrested for criminal possession of a weapon.

"I was there for the arraignment and then we tried to arrange bail," Hollister said. "That didn't work out very well."

Police in Niagara Falls said Arnold was a passenger in her own car. Officers said during a traffic stop, they noticed her and the driver, Halim Johnson, 18, moving around and one of them reaching under the seat.

"They were pulled over for not using a turn signal in the appropriate amount of time which, if you think about that, that's a really interesting reason to pull over. The driver was an African-American male," Hollister said.

Officers said they observed an AR-15 assault rifle in the car. The department says after searching the car, they found a magazine for the rifle, a combat knife, a handgun and a black half-ski mask.

Hollister said Arnold was in the middle of moving to a new residence.

"I'm sure there is quite a few things in the vehicle that wouldn't normally be in the vehicle but if you look at the situation there's a reason for that," he said.

While he admits the assault rifle was non-compliant under New York's SAFE Act, Hollister said he and Arnold don't believe the law is constitutional.

"Up until a few years ago, that rifle was a hundred percent legal and overnight, millions of New Yorkers were made into criminals for owning something that was perfectly legal the day before," he said.

Arnold, then 24, ran for the 62nd District seat in 2014 on an anti-SAFE Act platform. The mother of three briefly dropped out of the race after admitting she cheated on her husband and was then beaten handily in the primary.

Arnold was also charged with obstructing governmental administration for allegedly interfering with officers who were speaking to Johnson.

"She does currently have a lawyer," Hollister said. "We're not disclosing who yet but they will be at court with her on Tuesday." 

A judge set Arnold's bail at $5,000. Hollister said they've had trouble securing a bond and although he's raising money, as of Friday afternoon, she was still behind bars.

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