Bennington man sentenced to 10 months for assault along Route 7

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BENNINGTON — A local man was waiting to be released from jail Tuesday shortly after he was sentenced to 10 months for aggravated assault with a weapon — time he had already served.

Joshua Ellsworth, 29, pleaded guilty to the felony charge on Tuesday morning under a plea deal with the state. The deal included a recommended jail term of 10 months up to 10 months and one day, which the court agreed to.

Bennington County Superior Judge Cortland Corsones described the case as "very concerning," because of its nature, impact on the victim and Ellsworth's criminal record but said he was taking guidance from prosecutors on the sentence.

Ellsworth was accused of stabbing another man, Travis Squires, in the back during an altercation along Route 7 in October of last year.

Bennington police said the incident began when Ellsworth pulled up alongside a car carrying Squires, a pregnant woman and her child as the vehicle was waiting to turn left into Kocher Drive. Ellsworth allegedly brandished a knife, threw the weapon at Squires' car before both men got out of their vehicles and got into a fight.

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Squires reportedly told investigators he also punched Ellsworth during the altercation.

Ellsworth admitted there was "some sort of scuffle" in his car and that he had a weapon, but denied stabbing Squires, defense attorney Rick Burgoon said in an interview. The defense's position is that Squires accidentally got cut or had been injured by a broken part of the car.

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Before pronouncing Ellsworth's sentence, Judge Corsones said the defendant had a "plausible self-defense claim," the state has had recent issues with Squires and it wasn't certain the prosecution would win had the case gone to trial.

Ellsworth was detained on Oct. 2, 2019, which meant he had already satisfied his 10-month sentence as of August. He had started processing his release papers from Marble Valley correctional facility when his sentencing hearing took place.

Until he took a plea deal, Ellsworth had been facing up to life in prison for the aggravated assault. Its maximum prison sentence of 15 years could have been enhanced by his being a so-called habitual offender. Court documents show that between 2008 and 2014, he was convicted of three other felony crimes in Vermont: unlawful mischief, lewd and lascivious conduct and second-degree aggravated domestic assault. 

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Ellworth's two other charges in the case — aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and negligent vehicle operation — were dismissed with prejudice under the deal, meaning they cannot be refiled.

The prosecutor, Deputy State's Attorney Alex Burke, said the parties reached a "just resolution" after looking at all the factors in the case, including Ellsworth's criminal record and the circumstances surrounding the incident.

When asked if Ellsworth's sentence is shorter than usual for an assault with a weapon, Burke said no, explaining that each case carries its unique set of factors.

Defense attorney Burgoon said that once Ellsworth is released from Marble Valley, he plans to move to another state to make a fresh start.

Contact Tiffany Tan at ttan@benningtonbanner.com or @tiffgtan on Facebook and Twitter.


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