A film extra faces up to five years of lockup for brandishing a fake gun during a movie shoot.
The trouble started last year, when comedian Carlo Bellario took an unpaid role as a drug lord's henchman in an independent film called Vendetta Games. The scene was a car-chase segment that required Bellario to wave an airsoft pellet gun out the window while his automobile sped through the New Jersey neighborhood of Woodbridge.
When shooting was finished, the actors found themselves surrounded by real cop cars. Alarmed residents had apparently called the authorities. Once on the scene, police determined that the film's producers had neither a film permit nor a permit for the prop gun Bellario had used.
Just one person—Bellario—was arrested. The comedian spent four days in a county jail for unauthorized possession of a handgun before his family was able to post the thousands required for bail. If found guilty, he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of three and a half years in prison. He is currently prohibited from leaving the state, though he needs to do that regularly for his stand-up work. As of early March, he had not been given a court date.
Bellario's ordeal has served as a rallying cry for Garden State legislators who want changes to New Jersey's gun laws. Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (R–Union) and Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D–Union) say they're working on a bill to give prosecutors more discretion in cases like Bellario's, where no evidence of criminal intent was found.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Prop-Gun Gotcha".