Brad Lussier choked up apologizing to the family of John Reiss, a beloved St. Michael's College professor killed in September 2008 by a stray bullet as he sat eating dinner inside his own home in Essex.
"I'm deeply saddened and sorry for your loss," Brad Lussier told Reiss's children, who gathered inside the courtroom.
Lussier admits he brought a rifle to a friend's house next door and encouraged target shooting at what he now knows was an unsafe homemade gun range.
"I only hope that you will find solace in seeing me pay a debt to you and society," Lussier said.
Chittenden County Deputy Prosecutor Mary Morrissey read a statement from Reiss's children. It began, "Our family would like you to know we have forgiven the men involved in our father's death."
The Reisses wanted Judge Mark Keller to know their handicapped mother now has to live in a nursing home after losing her caregiver husband to the bullet from Lussier's gun.
"At 73 years old, Sheila Reiss has suffered greatly in losing her husband of 52 years, and sadly, is a shadow of her former self," Morrissey read.
Lussier's guilty plea came less than three weeks after a Burlington jury convicted his friend, Joe McCarthy, of recklessly setting up the firing range in line with the Reiss home.
Prosecutors said cutting a deal with Lussier will spare the Reiss family the strain of another trial. It may also save the 28-year-old from a more severe sentence. Under the terms of the agreement, he'll spend 60 days in jail followed by lengthy probation. The state's attorney's office also asked that he speak to hunter safety classes about unsafe shooting.
"This case should not have happened," Vt. District Court Judge Mark Keller told Lussier. "Other hunting incidents should not happen. People have to take their responsibility very seriously when they pick up the gun and decide to pull the trigger."
Brad Lussier was brought to jail to start serving his sentence immediately.
The family of John Reiss said nothing to reporters after the hearing. But prosecutors tell WCAX News the Reisses support the details of the plea agreement. In addition to the jail time and community service, Lussier cannot own guns during his probation.
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