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.
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.
Start your day with Reason. Get a daily brief of the most important stories and trends every weekday morning when you subscribe to Reason Roundup.