WOODBRIDGE, NJ—According to 48-year-old comedian Carlo Bellario, he was just an actor filming an independent movie and holding a harmless prop.
The plot of the movie was fictional: "A group of DEA agents go undercover as security for a city casino where they uncover ties between Colombian drug dealers and an underground narcotics operation by casino security."
But his November 16, 2015 arrest on weapons charges was anything but fiction, sending him to county jail for four days on a $10,000 bail, and leaving him facing second-degree weapons charges.
Woodbridge Police arrested Bellario, whose official last name is Gioas, after receiving calls describing a man leaning out the window of a vehicle and waving a gun.
It turns out the gun was an unloaded Airsoft BB gun, but under New Jersey state law the weapon is still considered a "handgun."
According to Bellario, the "simulated car chase" scene he was filming was part of an unpaid acting gig for the film "Vendetta Games," which was being produced by college student Andre Joseph.
"The producer of the movie told my family that he would indeed bail me out but when he found out the bail was 10,000 he declined to help and left me there and left my family frantic as to how to arrange bail and get me released," said Bellario.
According to the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), the film is currently in post-production, and Bellario is not listed as a cast member.
The case drew widespread attention in media outlets across New Jersey, with advocates for gun rights and people in the entertainment industry rallying around the comic.
Bellario, who hails from Toms River, raised more than $8,000 over the past seven months, to help defray his legal costs using the fundraising website GoFundMe.
Bellario was initially facing a charge that could have sent him to jail for decades, but on July 20, he accepted a plea deal offerred by Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Bina Desai.
Under the deal, Bellario agreed to plead guilty to "creating a false public alarm," a charge that will likely mean a sentence of probation instead of another trip to jail.
"In exchange for the guilty plea, the defendant will be placed on a probationary term of up to three years," reads a press release from the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office (MCPO) announcing the deal.
New Brunswick Today obtained the press release despite being removed from the MCPO's media list, the second time the prosecutor's office has blacklisted this newspaper for its adversarial coverage.
Alberto Rivas, the Presiding Criminal Judge of Middlesex County, will sentence Bellario on October 14. Bellario has said that the charge has affected his ability to travel outside New Jersey for his career.
Editor's Note: Bellario has appeared on a comedy show hosted by the author of this article.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick.