NORTHAMPTON — A Springfield man will spend the next four to five years in state prison for his role in a violent home invasion in Amherst two years ago.
In a change of plea hearing Friday in Hampshire Superior Court, Warrens Gelin, 23, pleaded guilty to nine counts related to the early morning Oct. 30, 2016 incident, becoming the first of seven defendants to have his case resolved.
Judge Richard Carey agreed to accept the plea deal, negotiated between the Northwestern district attorney’s office and Gelin’s defense attorneys. The arrangement include two years probation in which Gelin will have to stay away from the victims, not use any illegal drugs, not possess or use any firearms and have drug screenings. The plea deal also comes with a 2- ½ year jail sentence, which will be served concurrently, and Gelin will be given credit for 461 days already served.
“This was a serious, serious offense in which one person was permanently injured,” First Northwestern Assistant District Attorney Steven Gagne said.
One victim, Gagne said, suffered a laceration and bled profusely after being struck in the head by the handgun, while another victim had bone and tendon visible when his arm was “filleted” by a hatchet.
The charges Gelin pleaded guilty to include assault and battery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, aggravated assault and battery with a dangerous weapon causing serious bodily injury, breaking and entering during the nighttime to commit a felony, unlawful possession of a firearm, use of body armor in committing a felony and three counts of armed robbery.
“Four to five years in state prison is a significant punishment,” Gagne said.
Gagne outlined the case against Gelin and the other defendants, including Patrick Bemben, formerly of Hadley, Stephanos GeorgiadisTivonLaValley, both of Hadley, and Joseph T. Barcelos of Belchertown, who Bemben allegedly recruited to join the group that would enter the home at 943 South East St. John Joseph Niemiec III of Sunderland and Brittany Buckowski of Sunderland, both served as drivers during the incident. All have pleaded not guilty to charges and all but LaValley have either posted bail or been released with conditions.
Gagne said the incident began when Bemben was in a dispute with one of the victims after he felt his marijuana supply was cut off. Bemben then hatched a plan to rob equipment, marijuana and what he thought to be a large amount of cash, in excess of $100,000, from the rental home. The group was put together, Gagne said, “to storm the castle, so to speak.”
Gelin allegedly brought a .40-caliber, semi-automatic Beretta and supplied the bullet resistant vests.
But their effort didn’t go as planned, as the suspects had confronted one victim returning home from work, and a flood light triggered an alert that there were people outside the home.
“(They) quickly determined these were not friendly visitors, they were not trick or treaters,” Gagne said.
After attacking the residents, the suspects entered the home and took a laptop, phone, keys and wallet and two smoking apparatuses and an electronic device for heating marijuana concentrate, Gagne said. Several of the defendants fled on foot through the nearby woods, including Gelin, though Bemben was arrested on scene.
The recommended sentence for Gelin came following months of discussions between the prosecution and defense attorneys Elaine Pourinski and Tracy Duncan.
Gagne said his office is satisfied with the outcome and that it will save time and the expense of going to trial. Amherst Police spent several months investigating the incident.
The same plea deal offer is also being made to the alleged mastermind of the home invasion, Bemben, who is facing a similar lengthy list of charges. Gagne said a change of plea hearing for Bemben is scheduled for Nov. 20 in Hampshire Superior Court.
“I intend to make the same sentencing recommendation when it comes time for Mr. Bemben’s case to be resolved,” Gagne said.
The other five defendants are also on the trial list for November, Gagne said.
While her client agreed to the plea deal, Pourinski said Gelin was only brought in because he is a black man from Springfield who looked the part of being the “muscle.”
“This whole thing was rooted in racist stereotyping,” Pourinski said.
Pourinski said Gelin should have a mentor when he is released from state prison to ensure that he is able to transition out of prison successfully.
“My hope is he’ll do well when he comes out,” Pourinski said.
Scott Merzbach can be reached at email@example.com.