They were the shots heard ’round the world.
Even newspapers in Britain are picking up the story of the Chautauqua County man accused of dealing with a neighborly dispute by rattling nearby houses with blasts from his Civil War replica cannon.
The barrage, heard miles away, eventually led to an arrest and confiscation of the cannon, which apparently was firing charges but no cannon balls. Powder charges are held in place by wads of paper or foil.
“We had reports from people that had heard the cannon go off,” explained County Sheriff Joseph A. Gerace.
Wednesday, after several days of the racket, sheriff’s deputies went to Brian J. Malta’s home on Prosser Hill Road in Kiantone, south of Jamestown.
Accused of firing a replica Civil War cannon toward a neighbor’s property, the 52-year-old Malta was charged with three misdemeanor counts of menacing and three violation counts of harassment. He is free on $2,500 bail.
The arrest also prompted a headline in Daily Mail of London: “Man fired Civil War cannon at his neighbors for EIGHT DAYS during dispute.”
As for the dispute that prompted the blasts?
“It’s a civil matter,” Gerace said, declining to comment further on its nature.
It is not illegal to own a cannon in New York State, but this one is now being held as evidence by the Sheriff’s Office, a first for Gerace in terms of confiscated weapons.
“I don’t recall, during my 34-year career, taking a cannon,” he said.
Malta and his wife, Valerie, previously made news when they won a federal lawsuit, filed in 2005, alleging their First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated by Celoron village officials when they were barred from videotaping Village Board meetings, and when Malta was gaveled “out of order” for allegedly talking too much.
Several parts of the complaint were tossed out by the judge, but a jury found in their favor on the First Amendment issue in 2008, and the couple was awarded damages and attorney’s fees.