Plea offered for bar brawl

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BENNINGTON — A local man who was accused in February of knocking a man unconscious during a bar fight and then fighting with police when they arrested him has been offered a plea deal.

Christopher J. Hope Jr., 35, is being held because the alleged offenses happened while he was on probation. Hope has denied the two most recent felony charges in Bennington criminal court. Hope's case went to jury trial on Sept. 12, but new information about the case led to his defense counsel withdrawing due to a conflict.

Deputy State's Attorney Robert Plunkett said in court last Friday that an offer the state made the day of Hope's trial still stands. Under the plea agreement, the state would cap his sentence at five years, he said.

Hope's new counsel, defense attorney Arnold N. Gottlieb, asked Judge David A. Howard to continue the case while he researches speedy trial issues. Hope had requested a speedy trial at his arraignment, according to court records.

Officers responded to JC's Tavern on Depot Street at about 12:30 a.m. Feb. 18 after someone reported a man being hit with a bottle, according to an affidavit by Bennington police. An injured 47-year-old man was "slurring his words and dazed" and told police he was struck by a man called "Blue," a street name police said was used by Hope.

Hope is also accused of punching his girlfriend in the nose during the assault, according to the affidavit.

Hope was combative when Bennington officers and troopers with the Vermont State Police arrested him. At the Bennington police station, he allegedly kicked an officer and a trooper, according to the affidavit.

Hope pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in Rutland County on Feb. 21 to felony aggravated assault and aggravated assault committed to prevent a law-enforcement officer from doing lawful duties, and misdemeanor domestic assault and resisting arrest.

Under the agreement, Hope would plead guilty to felony aggravated assault and misdemeanor resisting arrest, and admit to violating his probation. Plunkett said the agreement calls for the state arguing no more than five years and a contested sentencing for the defense to argue less. The state would also not pursue another charge of obstructing justice.

The probation violation stems from an October 2014 incident. Hope was one of three men charged after they assaulted another at Hope's Pleasant Street apartment. Hope pleaded guilty in September 2015 to aggravated assault and no contest to using a weapon to commit a crime. Hope received a one-to-five year sentence on the first charge and a five-year deferred sentence on the second.

Hope will return to court for a pre-trial conference on Dec. 8.

Ed Damon can be reached at edamon@benningtonbanner.com, at @edamon_banner on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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