"The plea agreement is very, very favorable to you. I hope you're worthy," said Vt. District Court Judge Linda Levitt.
Even the judge acknowledged the surprising leniency of the sentence prosecutors offered Jeffrey Chamberlin for knifing a police officer.
It happened last fall when Chamberlin was dumped by his longtime girlfriend. He followed her from her job to a house in Milton hoping she'd take him back. He said he didn't know she had moved into the home with her new romantic interest, Winooski Police Officer Jason Nokes. But he found out when he said Nokes-- who was off-duty-- angrily confronted him, and Chamberlin claimed he was forced to defend himself with a knife.
"Mr. Nokes came out yelling. There was an altercation at my car. He got me through my window. I swung the knife once, he was injured and he released me. I drove off and I called 911," said Chamberlin.
Nokes needed delicate surgery to repair sliced tendons on two fingers but has now returned to full-time duty.
Chamberlin had facial injuries consistent with having been punched.
"What happened that night we will never know, " said Chittenden County Prosecutor T.J. Donovan.
Donovan said eyewitness accounts contradicted officer Nokes' claim that the knife attack was unprovoked. So Donovan was compelled to offer Chamberlin a plea deal calling for no prison and no criminal record if Chamberlain stays clean for two years.
"And if we don't have facts and we can't prove our case and there's a legitimate self-defense claim, we're not gonna go forward and lose outright. We'd rather go forward and get something," said Donovan.
Chamberlin declined comment as he left the courthouse. But his lawyer told us that despite the apparent strength of the self-defense claim, it was just too risky to go to jury trial because the jurors could conclude that Chamberlin's use of the knife was not reasonable.
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