Feb. 28, 2003 -- In Brooklyn, N.Y., Ron Dixon and his family were jolted awake by a noise early one morning.
There was a stranger in the house. When Dixon saw the intruder enter his young son's room, he grabbed his 9 mm pistol, loaded it, and moved to the entrance of the boy's room. He saw the man rifling through drawers, and said, "What are you doing in my house?"
Dixon says the burglar then moved toward him. He told his girlfriend, Tricia Best, to call the police.
She did, and as she was on the line with the 911 operator, Best heard shots ring out.
Dixon had shot the intruder. "I fired at him twice. He fell down the stairs and he lay at the bottom of the stairs," Dixon said.
The intruder, Ivan Thompson, survived. He's a career criminal who's been arrested 19 times and convicted of criminal trespass, burglary and attempted assault. Thompson is now being held in New York's Rikers Island jail.
The local paper called Dixon a hero. He is a Navy veteran, a father of two, and had never been in trouble with the law.
‘Hero’ Headed to Rikers?
So how was the hero treated? He was arrested and charged with "criminal possession of a weapon" — threatened with up to a year in jail, because his gun was unlicensed.
The district attorney did offer Dixon a deal — if he pleaded guilty they'd just put a misdemeanor on his record and lock him up for just four weekends. Guess where? … Rikers Island.
Dixon turned down the plea bargain and tested his luck in court. He said he couldn't pay his mortgage if he had to spend weekends in jail. "I work at a Wall Street firm. I do 40 hours on the weekend as well as during the week," Dixon said, adding, "That might mean that I would be out of a job."
Dixon's concerns didn't sway prosecutor Charles Hynes. Hynes wouldn't talk to 20/20 but he has said of Dixon's case, "You get caught with a [unlicensed] gun in Brooklyn, you're going to do jail time."
Dixon said he had bought the gun because he had been robbed at gunpoint in Florida. Dixon said he paid a gun law consultant $500 to help him with the paperwork to get a license, but the consultant took his money and went out of business.
Dixon's neighbors are outraged by what's happened.
"He shouldn't get no jail at all. He shouldn't — because he was protecting his family and his house," said a man who lives on Dixon's street.
Come on. Prosecutors are allowed discretion. When the career criminal, who was in Dixon's house, got his first conviction, he got probation, no jail time, but Dixon has to go to jail?
Dixon said the thought of going to jail for simply defending his family scares him a lot.
Give me a break.
Update: The Outcome
In a June 9 deal with Hynes, Dixon pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct, an infraction that will send him to Rikers Island for just three days.
To get the reduced sentence, Dixon, had to acknowledge his violation of gun registration laws, document where he purchased his gun and prove that he had taken steps to register it.
The conviction will not appear on Dixon's record.