Carlo Bellario, the actor and comedian who could serve serious prison time for having a BB gun while filming a movie in Woodbridge last year, turned down a plea bargain on Tuesday from the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, and instead opted to go to trial.
Bellario, 48, of Toms River, appeared for a preliminary hearing at the Middlesex County Courthouse before Superior Court Judge Alberto Rivas.
Bellario — who is facing up to five years in prison for weapons possession — was offered a plea bargain of three years in prison.
But Bellario opted for a trial, which his attorney, Jef Henninger, said is a gamble, as Bellario could face a much longer sentence if convicted by a jury. The reason being, Bellario has numerous prior convictions, which makes him subject to the state’s certain persons not to have firearms law.
According Henninger, if Bellario were to be convicted at trial, the court could have the discretion to tack on additional time — potentially 10 or more years in prison.
Rivas told Bellario what he was risking if he didn’t take the deal. Rivas referred to Bellario by his given name, Carlo Goias. Bellario is his stage name.
“Well Mr. Goias, this is not your first rodeo,” Rivas said. “So, 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.”
According to Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Kuberiet, Bellario has six prior convictions in two states. Among those convictions included charges of theft, credit card theft, and burglary, according to court records.
“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 nods his head yes.
“Then we will proceed forward,” Rivas said.
Bellario had been filming a small, low-budget, independent film last November called Vendetta Games in a residential neighborhood in Woodbridge. When police arrived, Bellario had the BB gun in his hand, he said. Though he noted during filming he thought it was merely a prop gun, and he also thought the director had a permit for the gun.
Kuberiet — who described the weapon as a “semi-automatic BB gun” — said that under state law, it is considered a firearm.
“His record increases his exposure,” Henninger said. “But whether you have the worst record or no record, if the gun was illegal for him to have, then it was also illegal for anyone else to have the gun. So if he didn’t own the gun … which is what our position is, someone else should also be charged with the same charges.”
Kuberiet declined comment after the hearing. Jim O’Neil, spokesman for the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, said he did not immediately know why the film’s producer was not also charged in the matter.
Recently, Assemblyman Jon Bramnick backed Bellario, saying that “Common sense dictates that this guy should not be facing prison.”
Bramnick is pushing legislation to give prosecutors more discretion with gun charges if it were determined that there was a lack of criminal intent.
This article originally appeared on NJ.com.