The son of a Wallingford property owner, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor after a neighbor said one of the shots fired at an unofficial firing range had hit his home in November, will not be sentenced for a year and could have his record expunged.
Lawrence Fritz, 25, of West Boylston, Massachusetts, will be on probation for the next year after pleading guilty on Monday to a misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment. If he avoids any further legal trouble, the case will be closed and his record will be expunged for successfully completing what is called a “deferred sentence.”
Fritz is also expected to go through the Rutland County Center for Restorative Justice. Rutland County State’s Attorney Rose Kennedy said there was agreement that although Fritz lives out-of-state, he would go through the local restorative justice program and, if he’s required to perform community service, do that service in Rutland County.
Attorney Daniel McManus, who represented Fritz, said the Wallingford home where the incident took place is a second home that belongs to Fritz’s father. Kennedy said the state was willing to allow Fritz to return to the home to use as a base for completing probation requirements like the restorative justice program.
The charges against Fritz were based on an affidavit written by Trooper Jesse Dambrackas, of the Vermont State Police. On Nov. 24 Dambrackas was dispatched to a home on Hateful Hill Road in East Wallingford after police received a report of “what appeared to be a stray bullet” striking the home Nov. 23.
Dambrackas said he spoke to the impacted homeowner, who said his family members had heard gunshots and “bullets whizzing by” while they were in their driveway.
The homeowner showed him police photos of what appeared to be a shooting range on his neighbor’s property, which included clay pigeons.
According to the affidavit, Fritz admitted to police that he had set up the unofficial shooting range, which had nothing to backstop the bullets, and used it.
After Judge Cortland Corsones accepted Fritz’s plea, he asked Kennedy if she had a victim impact statement from the homeowner.
Kennedy said the homeowner was aware of Monday’s hearing and the agreement that was expected to be reached but didn’t come to court. However, she said he had made it clear he was “not happy” with the proposed resolution.
“He’s fearful. He believes that Mr. Fritz is somebody who may be engaged in substance abuse. He cites to certain things that lead him to believe that so the idea of having someone who might be an addict or have problems with substance abuse shooting a gun near his house is obviously pretty scary,” she said.
Kennedy said she agreed to the deferred sentence because Fritz had very little criminal history.
McManus said he knew the homeowner’s opinion but said any substance abuse issues were unrelated to the shooting incident.
Fritz told Corsones he was “just coming up on a year sober.”
“October 23 will be a year sober. Just trying to get my life back together, just trying to do the next right thing and live a better life,” he said.
McManus said it was important to his client to get a deferred sentence because the reckless endangerment charge was not otherwise one that could be expunged at a later date.
Corsones asked Fritz about a hunter safety course he had taken. Fritz said he had learned about the importance of only target shooting where a backstop is in place because a “stray bullet can kill anybody.”
Corsones told Fritz he was “very fortunate” he was only facing a charge of reckless endangerment.
“I heard you say it was a wake-up call and I’m glad to hear you say that because you could very easily be here for a manslaughter charge, if not worse, on something like this. Once you pull the trigger on the gun, you can’t bring that bullet back,” he said.