MANCHESTER — A man who served exactly one year in prison for the accidental shooting death of a friend in 2010 was ordered Friday to pay $20 a month toward the restitution of more than $6,700 for his friend’s funeral expenses.
In May 2012, Nicholas Bell, 25, of Manchester, pleaded no contest to a felony charge of manslaughter and misdemeanor charges of simple assault with a weapon and reckless endangerment.
Bell and a friend, Jeffrey Charbonneau, 24, of Manchester, had spent the night before Thanksgiving at the home of a mutual friend. On Nov. 25, 2010, Bell took what he believed to be a pellet gun from the bedroom wall and shot it at Charbonneau to wake him up.
However, Bell had picked up a loaded .22-caliber rifle. The bullet hit Charbonneau in the chest and he died before rescue workers could reach the Manchester home where Bell and Charbonneau were staying.
Bell said Friday that he had gone to the Newport jail on June 20, 2012, and was released on June 20 this year.
He also said that “morally and legally” he would like to make restitution, which totals more than $8,600, to the Charbonneau family but said he has no ability to pay right now.
The restitution order is based on expenses incurred by the family because of Jeffrey Charbonneau’s death and include $6,720 for Jeffrey Charbonneau’s funeral and about $1,360 for Jeffrey’s sister, Kelly, to come from Colorado for the funeral. A request was also made for about $600 in wages lost by Richard Charbonneau, Jeffrey’s father, in part, when he was called away from work to identify his son’s body.
The Charbonneau family has already received the money from Vermont’s Victims Compensation Program so the restitution would go to the state.
Judge Cortland Corsones ordered Bell to pay $20 a month Friday but said he was making the ruling with the understanding that the restitution board could increase the payments or take other steps to collect the money if Bell’s income increases.
During the hearing, Bell testified that he did not have a job at the time of the shooting and had no way to make money while in prison. Bell acknowledged there were some opportunities to take jobs that pay a small amount while in prison but said other prisoners, who had fewer financial resources, usually took those jobs.
Since being released from prison, Bell said he has been trying to start a business making videos. He said he had two recent jobs in which he recorded a family’s children snowboarding and another in which he recorded a wedding. Bell has been paid $3,000 since being released from prison.
Bennington County Deputy State’s Attorney Robert Plunkett questioned Bell, who submitted financial information to the court, about expenses of about $4,000 in the last month. Bell said the money had been lent to him by family members for a computer and microphones he needed for his video-making business.
Thaddeus Lorentz, who represented Bell, asked Corsones to give Bell about a year during which he would not pay restitution while attempting to build his business. If the business was successful, Lorentz suggested Bell would pay about $100 a month.
However, Corsones said he believed Bell should pay at least a “nominal amount” until his financial resources increased.
“It’s also part, really, of the defendant paying back for the crime that he was convicted of as well. That’s what restitution was designed for,” Corsones said.
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