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V. Barbarino

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POSTED: 7:59 am EDT April 25, 2005

UPDATED: 10:53 am EDT April 25, 2005

NEWARK, N.J. -- She's 87, and "a nice lady." She's also facing a weapons charge after trying to enter the Essex County Courthouse with a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson.

Rebecca Solomon of Newark was running late for a hearing at landlord-tenant court, and said she forgot to take the gun -- which was still in its original box -- out of her handbag last Wednesday.

A metal detector at the courthouse flagged the weapon.

"I asked the guard if he could just keep it until I got back from court," Solomon told The Star-Ledger of Newark for Monday's newspapers. "He said, `I can't do that, I'm afraid I'm going to have to call my supervisor."

Although the senior has a permit to own the gun, she does not have one to carry it in public. She was charged with unlawful possession of a handgun.

"We had no choice," said Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura. "We felt bad about it. But there was nothing we can do."

The sheriff said he hopes the prosecutor's office examines the case and either downgrades the charges or dismisses them entirely.

"She didn't mean any harm," the sheriff said. "And she's such a nice lady."

Solomon said she bought the gun -- and a box of bullets -- for protection. Within the past year, her home has been broken into three times, she said.

She had an appointment in landlord-tenant court for a case in which she is trying to have tenants of her duplex evicted, and thought she had left the gun in the trunk of her car. where she usually puts it when she goes out.

"I know I made a mistake," she told the newspaper. "I just get forgetful sometimes."

© 2005 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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