Suspect pleads no contest in shooting

BENNINGTON - A Manchester man who gave police two different versions of the story about how he came to have a bullet wound in his chest the night before he was scheduled to be arraigned on domestic assault charges pleaded no contest to lying to police. Additionally, as part of separate incidents Donald Ely-Gardner pleaded guilty to misusing an employer's cell phone, violating a restraining order, and court ordered conditions of release.

Ely-Gardner, 28, of Cone Road, pleaded no contest Monday in Bennington Superior Court Criminal Division to a misdemeanor charge of giving false information to police, and guilty to five counts of violating an abuse prevention order, theft of services, and 24 counts of violating conditions of release.

The state agreed to argue for no more than 15 years in prison for Ely-Gardner to serve. A sentencing hearing will be held once a pre-sentencing investigation is complete. As part of the agreement the state dropped a felony embezzlement charge, two petit larceny charges, two violation of abuse prevention order counts, and scores of release condition violations, of which Ely-Gardner had been facing over 100.

According to Manchester Police, on Dec. 30 Ely-Gardner was taken to the police station by a friend. He told police someone had shot him by the roundabout but was unable to give more information because he was losing consciousness.

Police said they determined the shooting had actually occurred behind the former Movado Store on Main Street, and while later being questioned at Albany Medical Center in Albany, N.Y., Ely-Gardner told police he had shot himself with a .22 caliber handgun.

Ely-Gardner was scheduled to be arraigned on felony domestic assault charges on Dec. 31. He later went to trial on those charges and was acquitted by a jury. He was questioned about the shooting by prosecutors and testified that he was not sure why he did it.

Police had also cited Ely-Gardner for taking two display cell phones from Hand Motors where he worked and racking up a bill of over $1,000 by making calls on one of them.

Police said many of the calls were to a woman he was ordered by the court to not have contact with. Judge Cortland Corsones said Ely-Gardner had agreed to pay $1,183 to the Vermont Restitution Unit but currently has no ability to pay.

Deputy State's Attorney Jennifer Barrett said the abuse prevention order charges stem from Ely-Gardner calling the woman who had applied for the order after he was served with it.


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