A Poultney man was sentenced on Thursday to serve 10 to 20 years in prison for providing the gun that was used to accidentally kill another man in 2016.
Jonathan Testa, 23, was sentenced in Rutland criminal court on Thursday after pleading no contest to a felony count of assault and robbery resulting in an injury and pleading guilty to a felony count of false personation and one misdemeanor count each of reckless endangerment, possession of stolen property and petty larceny.
The charges stem from a series of events that resulted in William Edward Bailey, 21, of Granville, New York, fatally shooting Daniel Hein, 19, of Poultney.
Bailey told police he didn’t know the gun was loaded. He said Testa had encouraged him to point the gun at Hein and pull the trigger to prove the gun wasn’t loaded, but Testa has denied that.
Bailey was charged with a felony count of manslaughter. He pleaded no contest to the charge in January 2018 and received a sentence of two years in June.
Testa was also charged with manslaughter but entered a plea agreement in August under which the charge was amended to reckless endangerment.
On Thursday, Rutland County State’s Attorney Rose Kennedy asked Judge Thomas Zonay to sentence Testa to 12 to 20 years. Under the plea agreement, it was the longest sentence the state could request.
Attorney Mark Furlan asked for a sentence of 3½ to four years.
Zonay’s sentence was cumulative, with the longest piece, 8 to 17 years, attached to the reckless endangerment charge.
In a statement, Kennedy supported the sentence.
“I think (Zonay) thoughtfully took into consideration (Testa’s) reckless actions that led to Daniel Hein’s death and his willful actions of hitting Ryan Lowell over the head with a crowbar and stealing from Deanna Fifield. (Testa) chose his behaviors and the sentence handed down (Thursday) is an appropriate response to those bad decisions. The State believes it is a necessary sentence to deter similar bad choices and to protect the community from (Testa,)” Kennedy said.
Furlan declined to comment after the sentencing.
Zonay made it clear that he was sentencing Testa not just for the individual charges but the “series of bad choices” that resulted not only in Hein’s death but other criminal acts.
On Nov. 28, 2016, Hein, Testa and a third man, Andrew McCrea, 23, of Poultney, began a burglary at Lowell’s Fair Haven home. Lowell grabbed a gun when he heard the men attempting to enter his home and Hein ran off when he saw Lowell had a .40 caliber Taurus PT-140.
But McCrea and Testa continued the burglary. McCrea hit Lowell with the handle of a hammer and Testa hit him with a crowbar. They took Lowell’s gun, which was unloaded, and a safe, which had money, and a loaded clip, police said.
The men took the safe to a local dump and pried it open. They took the cash but left the gun until later, when Testa and Hein retrieved it.
On Dec. 20, 2016, Hein, Testa and Bailey were in Bailey’s car in the Poultney driveway of Hein’s brother, Jeremy Fifield. The men in the car had been drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana.
Bailey shot and killed Hein with the gun he had thought was unloaded.
“After the shot, Bailey immediately dropped the firearm and yelled, ‘Oh, my God, what do I do?’” a police affidavit said.
Testa fled the car with the gun and hid it in a tree near Fifield’s home. Testa went into the Fifield home to wash off the blood and change his clothes.
Testa told police in 2016 that he was upset about the incident and started to cry. He spoke to Fifield but didn’t tell Fifield about Hein’s death.
When a Vermont State Police cruiser came to Fifield’s home to notify Fifield about Hein’s death, Testa climbed out the back window with Fifield’s cellphone and a bank debit card belonging to Deanna Fifield.
Zonay said Testa used the card to buy clothes and food and withdrew $700.
Testa was arrested in December 2016 by Detective Sgt. Tyson Kinney, of the Vermont State Police, who was in Rutland looking for Testa when he saw Testa walking along Route 7.
Testa told police at the time he had been walking to a site where he expected to meet a taxi driver who had agreed to take him to Rhode Island.
Zonay said during Testa’s sentencing that Testa had a pending charge for child abuse in Rhode Island.
Testa has already served more than 2 years in jail.