New Jersey

Possessing Air Pellet Gun During Film Shoot Can Get You Many Years in Prison in Jersey

Comedian/actor Carlo Bellario refuses to plea out and wants trial for the "crime" of having an unfired air gun during movie shoot.

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New Jersey is a terrible place to try to own or use a gun. Or even to have one on your person in a public place while shooting a movie. Even if it's an air powered pellet gun.

Carlo Bellario's GoFundMe page

This is a lesson learned by Carlo Bellario, who was caught holding a CO2 air pellet gun while portraying a bodyguard for a drug dealer while filming a small indie flick called Vendetta Games.

The 48-year-old Bellario is bravely, if possibly foolishly, not willing to plea out to any punishment for "weapons possession" for this objectively innocent act no matter the letter of that crazy state's crazy gun laws, reports NJ.com. 

He could have plead out for three years in prison, but is opting for trial instead. (He's got a GoFundMe going for his court costs.)

This is especially risky as he could end up with an additional ten years tacked on because of certain prior convictions the actor and comedian has on his record, including credit card theft and burglary.

The gun, according to previous NJ.com reports from before Bellario was officially indicted for his "crime," was a CO2 air pellet gun, which is treated like any other firearm under Jersey law. He did not fire it, merely had it in his waistband. Neighbors disturbed or alarmed by the unpermitted film shoot called the cops, who showed up and arrested him for possessing the weapon.

Superior Court Judge Alberto Rivas sternly warned Bellario that:

"you know what's at stake here. You're going for the long haul. You lose, (and) you'll end up in state prison — for an extended period of time. Especially if you have a record. Flat time, three years, you're out in less than a year — (and) you may be eligible for intensive supervision."….

"You could be out in six months," Rivas said alluringly. "And that's what you are potentially rejecting today. But, it's your call. It's your decision. You're the one who has to live with all the consequences for your decision."

He continued, "He get's to go home, he get's to go home; you're the only one who doesn't know if he gets to go home. You can live with that?"

Bellario insists he thought the gun was just a prop gun, not real, and that he thought the film director had a permit for it. (Not so.) Since Bellario considers his behavior perfectly innocent, he was not inclined to just give up and put himself behind bars for it.

State Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (R-Union) told the paper that "Common sense dictates that this guy should not be facing prison." Bramnick would like to get a state law passed that would "give prosecutors more discretion with gun charges if it were determined that there was a lack of criminal intent."

From November 2014 the saga of Brian Aitken, another innocent man falling afoul of Jersey's insane gun laws.

And a vast collection of Reason stories of New Jersey gun law enforcement.

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56 responses to “Possessing Air Pellet Gun During Film Shoot Can Get You Many Years in Prison in Jersey

  1. Living in Jersey should be punishment enough for any crime.

  2. So when is SCOTUS gonna bitch slap New Jersey already?

    1. Since an air gun is hardly a militia-useful arm, this “crime” may not fall under the Second Amendment and may fall into the “the Ninth Amendment means nothing” special exception to the written words of the Constitution.

      1. They didn’t even have CO2 when the Founding Fathers wanted to preserve the heritage of hunting in the Bill of Rights.

        1. They didn’t even have CO2 when the Founding Fathers wanted to preserve the heritage of hunting in the Bill of Rights.

          It is a little known fact but according to paleoclimate data there was no CO2 before America was stolen from the red man and handed over to whitey. Rumors of lush green forests from sea to shining sea are belied by the fossil record.

      2. Since an air gun is hardly a militia-useful arm, this “crime” may not fall under the Second Amendment…

        Wrong. The Girandoni air rifle existed prior to the ratification of the Constitution, and was used for military service in the Austrian army from 1780 until 1815. It was the machine gun of its day, having a magazine capacity of 20 rounds, and it could fire 30 rounds before it depleted its air reservoir. Each rifleman was equipped with three reservoirs and 100 rounds of ammunition. The Lewis and Clark expedition was outfitted with one, so we know that the founders were aware of it.

        Its existence also disproves the theory that the founders wouldn’t have envisioned “high-capacity” magazines or rifles capable of firing rapidly.

        1. Fair point. Change my statement to “Since an Airsoft air gun is hardly a militia-useful arm…”

          1. Sorry. “C02 pellet gun” is not an “airsoft gun.” The first typically shoots a .17 cal lead pellet with enough velocity to hunt squirrels, the second shoots plastic pellets which, with adequate eye protection, can be safely shot at people during simulated combat training,
            [/firearm instructor]

            1. I have tried to find a definitive statement as to whether this was a CO2 gun or an Airsoft gun. I have failed, but more commentators appear to believe it is the latter rather than the former.

        2. …though the air rifle facts and article are indeed interesting.

  3. That judge sounds like an asshole.

  4. New Jersey is a terrible place

    You could’ve stopped there.

  5. it’s a good thing that state has no problems with violent crime.

  6. State Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (R-Union) told the paper that “Common sense dictates that this guy should not be facing prison.” Brannick would like to get a state law passed that would “give prosecutors more discretion with gun charges if it were determined that there was a lack of criminal intent.”

    What kind of jerk wants to bring some malum in se sanity to the law? We’ve got victimless crimes to prosecute!

    1. He wants to give prosecutors *more* discretion. Which gives them *more* power. It’s the wrong “solution”. Repealing the insane gun laws would be far better. With his way, a prosecutor can decide to fuck someone they don’t like using their expanded “discretion”. Or get their buddy out of a jam.

      1. Good point.

      2. I knew there was something wrong with mens rea from the name alone. Can we rename it xi rea and reboot the intent franchise?

      3. Which is exactly what I thought – the problem isn’t with the discretion of prosecutors, the problem is with the law itself which treats children’s toys as legitimate weapons. Add to that, that this law (I think), similar to far too many others laws, is statutory, meaning intent isn’t required to prove the crime.

        In a world in which very few crimes are statutory and NJ isn’t stupid enough to write a law which treats building a children’s you as equivalent to an actual handgun, prosecutors would be unable to charge Mr. Bellario. And even if they did, it intent was required to convict, straight forward jury instructions as to those requirements would likely result in acquittals often enough, no prosecutors would try.

        But we love in a world where groups are demonized to the point that people see others vaping and tear it like smoking, because they’re evil smokers. A world where gun owners are demonized, so assisting to be one is enough. A world were intent isn’t required to strip fellow citizens of their freedom for long periods of time.

        A world that mostly won’t care if Mr. Bellario is sentences to 10 years.

        And worse, a world where, if he is sentenced to 10 years, small, but not insignificant, percentage of the population will think he deserves it.

        After all, he’s an evil gun owner and that’s enough these days.

        1. After all, he’s an evil gun owner and that’s enough these days.

          Actually, he isn’t a gun-owner. He got handed a prop. Had he completed the scene and handed the “gun” back before the popo showed up, it would have been the director on trial.

          Which makes your point worse.

    2. Brannick would like to get a state law passed that would “give prosecutors more discretion

      Which will do exactly nothing. Way to stand up for what’s right and fair, asshat.

      1. Any law that has to be made workable by giving prosecutors more discretion is a horrible law on its face and should be immediately declared void. And everyone who voted for it should be tased. And every prosecutor who promises to use only against “the right people” needs to be tased twice, because they are lying.

    3. I’m pretty sure the prosecutor already has plenty of discretion not to bring this charge, regardless of what he thinks about criminal intent. Bramnick’s proposed solution is no solution at all.

  7. New Jersey, like NYC, has moved into the zone of “those ‘allowed’ to have guns now jealously defend that status since it’s such a marker of being connected”. The insane gun laws are a bright delineation between those who have some juice and the little people. And those with juice want it to stay that way.

    1. Also see: Chicago Alderman and Cook County Reserve Deputies.

  8. “you know what’s at stake here. You’re going for the long haul. You lose, (and) you’ll end up in state prison

    At least he hasn’t made up his mind or anything.

    1. In context, I think he meant “if you lose”

  9. Holy crap! I was not prepared to see the punishments, even the oh-so-generous “deal” they offered, to actually involve jail time, much less a number counted in years. Don’t rapists get that kind of time?

    Forget Cuba, this is fucking political imprisonment of people.

    1. I agree. New Jersey’s gun laws outright defy the clear meaning of the 2A; they know it, but they keep prosecuting those who bear arms. After McDonald, NJ has no leg to stand on. Yet the violation of rights proceeds unhindered.

      1. The state managed to dodge the big legal challenges. Now with Scalia gone, they are in the clear. The Court would deadlock now.

      2. I don’t understand how municipalities and states can prohibit gun ownership with the 2nd amendment in place.

        Aren’t those automatically unconstitutional since that particular right was NOT left to the states to govern, but is actually encoded in the BoR?

        1. They could until the McDonald Court incorporated the 2nd Amendment via the 14th Amendment.

          The Supreme Court has long held that, originally, the BOR only applied to the federal government, not the States (and, by extension, local governments). Only through the 14A and the process of selective incorporation (a judicial doctrine for interpreting the 14A’s Due Process Clause) do selected parts of the BOR apply to the States.

          SCOTUS picks and chooses which rights (or parts of a right) in the BOR apply to the States, asking and answering whether that right is “so fundamental to the concept of ordered liberty” as to apply to the States via the DPC.

        2. A law, no matter how unconstitutional, can only be struck down, once someone with standing fights said law on those grounds and wins.

          Since mostly the poor get screwed with these laws, the legal challenge isn’t made.

          And since standing requires charges, in many cases, if a defendant of a law like this, shows means, aptitude, and motivation to fight as long as it takes, prosecutors will simply drop all charges.

          Without charges, that individual no longer has standing, making the point moot and further trials unnecessary.

          And lastly, even those with means and motivation will be faced with this decision, due to current prosecutorial discretion:

          Take a plea for little or no jail time or
          If you lose, expect to do the maximum in a maximum security prison

          So by employing tactics like the ones above, our government can continue to enforce and pass constitutionally questionable laws which further side civil liberties and never once with about the law being stuck down.

          And the R’s answer to the moral failings of legislatures and politics to defend the Constitution and the freedom of its citizens is to grant more prosecutorial discretion.

          He wants to expand the discretion which is now used to screw over as many little people as possible, in order to fix a problem, which is partially caused by current abuses of prosecutorial discretion.

          Woodchipper anyone?

  10. So the deal they offered was three years? And the potential penalty is 13 years?

    Seems to me like there’s a cruel and unusual punishment challenge to that kind of time being the penalty for possessing a frickin’ air gun.

  11. Brannick would like to get a state law passed that would “give prosecutors more discretion with gun charges if it were determined that there was a lack of criminal intent.”

    What the fuck prosecutor is going to use that discretion? None.

  12. “you know what’s at stake here. You’re going for the long haul. You lose, (and) you’ll end up in state prison ? for an extended period of time. Especially if you have a record. Flat time, three years, you’re out in less than a year ? (and) you may be eligible for intensive supervision.”….

    “You could be out in six months,” Rivas said alluringly. “And that’s what you are potentially rejecting today. But, it’s your call. It’s your decision. You’re the one who has to live with all the consequences for your decision.”

    He continued, “He get’s to go home, he get’s to go home; you’re the only one who doesn’t know if he gets to go home. You can live with that?”

    This dude has absolutely no chance. The judge just told him that he’s going to convict him, one way or another, if he goes to trial. He’s going to be punished for having the gall not to bow down to the prosecutors and take a plea deal.

    1. I don’t see it like that. Looks like the judge is just making sure he understands the risk and talking hypothetically.

      Though I don’t get what the hell point this part is trying to make: “He get’s to go home, he get’s to go home; you’re the only one who doesn’t know if he gets to go home.”

      1. I’m guessing the judge is talking about the dudes lawyers.

        1. That makes sense. Rather poorly worded point. Accept this deal and remove all doubt about going home.

      2. Nope, this is standard intimidation tactics. The prosecutor targets the defendant for a thermonuclear screwing, then offers a merely brutal screwing if the defendant takes a plea deal and spares the prosecutor the trouble of actually proving his case. That’s why so many defendants plead out even when the charges against them are hopelessly bogus. First, few criminal defendants have the resources to mount a really effective defense, and second, the downside risk if they lose is sky-high.
        The prosecutor is the one actually making the threat, but the judge is pretty clearly backing him up. (As they usually do.)

  13. Not a big Christie fan as a national candidate, but… In 2017 he goes away, a Democrat wins, and our gun laws immediately get much, much worse.

    1. How can they get worse?

      1. Christie has vetoed a bunch of gun control bills. There is talk in the Assembly of outright banning all ARs without any grandfathering. They also like the NY style 7-round limit.

        They can and will get much worse.

  14. Is anyone ever going to inform New Jerksey of the Second Amendment?

    1. I wonder if there is ever some sort of appeal in this case if it will be argued that the second amendment doesn’t apply because the pellet gun he carried wasn’t actually a weapon.

  15. Mens rea is hard to prove. And prosecutors can’t bill by the hour, so “hard to prove” isn’t a good thing like it is in private practice. THROW THE BOOK AT THIS SCOFFLAW

  16. Somehow this seems like an infringement of the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms to me.

  17. …a CO2 air pellet gun, which is treated like any other firearm under Jersey law

    “Firearms” where there’s no burning of an explosive to propel the projectile (no “fire”). That’s an interesting usage of the term.

    1. Illinois treats some compressed gas powered tools as ‘firearms’

      If I remember correctly, any air gun over 1200fps requires a FOID to purchase and possess.

  18. A while back I was trying to deal with prop guns for theatrical productions in NYC, which suffers from similar problems, and discovered that prop guns are treated pretty much the same as real guns under the law. In fact, it’s almost easier to find information about how to legally possess real guns than it is to find information about how to legally possess prop guns, since the prop guns seem to exist in a weird gray area – possession of them is treated about the same as possession of a real gun, but the licensing laws only seem to apply to real guns. At least, I couldn’t find much information on how to safely possess a prop gun.

    The weird side effect of this legal situation is that movie armorers seem to deal with what are basically real guns, since it’s no harder to own them than it is to own realistic props anyway!

  19. New Jersey truly is run by idiots and MORONS. Isnt that fat ass Chris Christie from there? Jsut offer him up a platter of cheeseburgers lol. Im glad I dont reside in that shithole state.

    http://www.Anon-Net.tk

    1. Anonbot is evolving…..did Cyborg seize his soul?

  20. Am I the only guy who thinks people should start spamming horse porn or some shit to these shithole judges and DAs email accounts? Or would that be something they are into?

    1. Most likely the filters would eat it before it got to them

  21. He continued, “He get’s to go home, he get’s to go home; you’re the only one who doesn’t know if he gets to go home. You can live with that?”

    Your Honor, you’re threatening to throw me in a cage for a decade over possession of a *toy*. Can *you* live with that?

    1. It;s pretty amazing. I spent a couple years in Jersey at a prep school in 72/4. One of the guy’s I’d get stoned with was the son of the former secretary of state and he was in prison for corruption. I was interested in forestry, the dean suggested Yale but I knew enough about New Haven (even then) to gtfo. Ended up in Montana a few years later, glad I did….judges here would get strung up for that shit.

      1. Somehow “Yale” and “forestry” don’t belong in the same universe.

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