Actor arrested with prop gun: I’ll ‘roll the dice,’ risk 15 years in prison
Carlo Bellario, the New Jersey actor who was arrested on November 2015 after using a prop gun on a movie set in Woodbridge, said he plans to reject a plea deal that could keep him out of prison when he attends a hearing Wednesday in Middlesex County.
Instead, he'll risk what his attorney has previously said could be around 15 years in prison — up to five for a weapons charge, and another 10 if Bellario is charges as a felon who isn't allowed to carry a weapon. He hasn't been formally indicted yet, and the charges if he is are, at this point, best guesses.
"I personally hope he takes the plea. It's the best case scenario for him. It's a total victory and will have almost zero impact on his life," his attorney, Jef Henninger.
But Bellario himself tells New Jersey 101.5 he's rejecting the deal — bristling at the years of probation he'd likely have to serve under it.
In March, Bellario — also known as Carlo Goias — appeared before a Superior Court judge for a pre-indictment conference and but refused a plea deal that would have meant imprisonment with possible early release, according to his attorney, Jef Henninger.
Bellario has repeatedly insisted that he would not take any plea deal that involved prison time. He has told New Jersey 101.5 that he preferred to take his chances with a jury rather than accept a deal that lands him behind bars, and he is again standing by his decision.
Henninger said Tuesday that because Bellario hasn't been indicted yet, prosecutors have more discretion when offering him a plea deal that could prevent him from serving any jail time.
"The plea deal with likely include probation for causing false public alarm," Henninger said. "As a result, that would get him out from under the gun crimes, and make sure he doesn’t have to go to prison.”
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Henninger said the state is not bound by the deal, and it’s possible things could change by Wednesday, when the hearing takes place. He said the difference with this plea deal and the one offered in March is that it does not include a weapons possession charge.
“I think it’s an incredibly favorable deal, and I really appreciate the prosecutor's office and their hard work that they’ve put in to do the proper investigation so they can propose such a deal," Henninger said. "This is my understanding that this is as good as it’s going to get.”
But that's still not good enough for Bellario.
"I don't feel it's fair enough. I shouldn't have to be on probation for three years," he said.
Bellario told NJ 101.5 he knows that rejecting the deal and going forward with a jury trial could be risky, but he believes the public — which he said has been supportive — will continue to be on his side.
"There's no way a jury is gonna convict me over this. If the prosecutors don't have common sense over this, then I hope the public will," Bellario said. "I'm rolling the dice."
Bellario, who recently went through surgery for medical isues, said his health and finances are suffering as a result of the case and he's losing work.
According to Henninger, a plea agreement would have meant up to five years of probation.
“He doesn’t have a drug problem or an alcohol problem, so probation, in my opinion probably wouldn’t worry too much about him because normally they’re focused on people who have very serious issues," Henninger said.
The attorney also said he believes if such a deal is offered and accepted, Bellario would be a model probationer.
"He really would just have to report and I would assume they would probably cut him loose before his term would be up because he would be a model probationer. That would be my hope," Henninger said. "Probation would be strictly reporting once a month or whatever it is, and it would be not really much of an inconvenience in his life.”
Bellario's decision not to accept the plea deal this time around, means the case will likely end up going to trial, Henninger said.
The attorney acknowledged Bellario has a previous felony record — he served two, six-month sentences for theft — and said that should have made the actor's decision easier. He said someone with a clear record might be worried about marring it; that's not the case for Bellario.
In an update on his "Raw Deal for Carlo Bellario" GoFundMe page, the NJ man said he's "anxious to get this over with more than anyone else. If they believe me, then why are they still wanting to bring charges against me. I am so confused right now."
The page has raised more than $8,000 of a $15,000 goal to help cover his legal expenses.
The incident leading to Bellario’s arrest happened on Nov. 16, 2015, when the actor showed up on the set of an indie movie — “Vendetta Games” — in response to a casting call he had seen in a Facebook group. He was tasked with playing a drug dealer’s bodyguard, and the scene was being shot in a residential neighborhood in Woodbridge.
Bellario said he was handed a what he was told was a prop gun. He climbed into the passenger seat of a vehicle, with two cameramen in the backseat, and another actor driving, and they took off to film the staged shootout. No actual shots were fired, he has said.
After they finished filming the scene, the actors returned to the main staging area, where Woodbridge police arrested him after getting calls from nervous neighbors who believed an actual shootout had taken place and that the Airsoft pistol Bellario was carrying was a weapon, he said. He then spent four days in Middlesex County Jail.
The police report is below:
Toniann Antonelli is a social content producer for NJ 101.5. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.
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