WEST CHESTER >> A Common Pleas Court jury has found a Tredyffrin man who was described as a “gun enthusiast” by his attorney of trying to scare his mother by cocking a gun behind her, leaving her terrified that he might shoot her.
On Thursday, the panel of six men and six women handed down the verdict against Martin “Marty” Kleiber on charges of possession of an instrument of crime, simple assault, and terroristic threats. The panel had deliberated about 7 1/2 hours over two days before returning with their unanimous decision in Judge William P. Mahon’s courtroom. Mahon also found Kleiber guilty of a summary count of harassment.
Kleiber, 36, of Wayne was returned to Chester County Prison, where he has been held on bail since his arrest in May. He will be sentenced in May.
The charges, according to Assistant District Attorney Alex Gosfield, who prosecuted the case, stem from an incident at the home Kleiber shared with mother, 77-year-old Joyce Kleiber.
As Joyce Kleiber walked down a set of stairs in the home with Martin Kleiber behind her, she later told police that she heard the distinctive sound of a semi-automatic pistol being cocked, its top slide being “racked” to put a bullet into the firing chamber.
Because she and her son had engaged in a series of disturbing confrontations involving his ownership of a number of weapons, including the handgun and several semi-automatic rifles, she did not know what her son was planning when he cocked the gun, Gosfield said.
But in attempting to rebut the prosecution’s case, defense attorney Terrence Marlowe of Downingtown told the jury that his client had not meant to terrorize his mother, and was simply “exercising his right” to possess firearms. He claimed the charges were manufactured against his client because of a family dispute involving one of Martin Kleiber’s older sisters.
Marlowe likened the situation to the dysfunctional family relationships in Shakespeare’s “King Lear” and the popular television series, “Game of Thrones.”
In her testimony, Joyce Kleiber said that the incident with the handgun occurred on May 6, 2016. When she heard the gun cock, she said, “I got very frightened. I heard the sound of a gun clicking two times. I was scared out of my mind.”
Gosfield had one of the deputy sheriffs assigned to Mahon’s courtroom replicate the sound by cocking a similar handgun behind Joyce Kleiber as she sat on the witness stand. She said she was certain that was the sound she had heard on the stairs.
Because she and her son, the youngest of her four children, had argued over his use of guns in the home, she said she was uncertain what his intentions were. “I didn’t know if Martin was scaring me or had something else in mind,” she told Gosfield. “I was shocked. At some point I thought I was in danger.”
The confrontations between the two included her telling him she did not want guns in the house, and his possession of two rifles and the handgun, and telling her if she did not like them she could “move out.” Another time, he said that if she ever called the police on him, “there would be bullet holes in the walls.” Still again, he said that chronic pain he suffered from made him so angry, “he feels like going into town and shooting people at random.”
He also threatened to begin operating a methamphetamine lab in the basement, which could end up with the house “blowing up,” Joyce Kleiber testified.
On cross examination, however, she said that she had never seen her son point the handgun at her, and that she was never hurt or physically assaulted by him that day. She did not immediately call police, but later told a neighbor and her daughter about what happened and that they pressured her into reporting the incident to Tredyffrin police.
She also, however, told Gosfield that she had left the home the following day and had moved out of the area to get away from her son.
Martin Kleiber, who has an earlier conviction for drug possession, was charged on May 8, 2016.
Taking the stand in his own defense, he contended that he had not meant to threaten his mother, but acknowledged that he did have the gun in his hand when she heard it click.
To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.