MANCHESTER - Tony Hebert, 29, was sentenced to serve 14 to 30 years in prison for shooting Pablo Samniego in the face two years ago.
Hebert was originally charge with second-degree murder in the shooting death of the 21-year-old Samniego at Ferry and South Main streets at 3 a.m. July 17, 2011.
Hebert pleaded to the manslaughter charge last month in Hillsborough County Superior Court North.
Judge David Garfunkel said the sentence is intended as a message to the community about the consequences of the reckless use of firearms.
Garfunkel said the two men were strangers, and although Samniego was drunk and insulted Hebert, he was unarmed.
All Hebert had to do was drive away, said Garfunkel, but he circled back and shot Samniego at close range. Only then did Hebert drive away, leaving Samniego to die on the pavement.
Hebert was credited with 790 days of pretrial confinement and can apply for a suspension of the remainder of his sentence after serving two-thirds of the minimum.
He must also pay restitution for burial expenses and must have no contact with the victim's family.
Previous story follows:
MANCHESTER — Defense attorneys, friends and family members Monday described Tony Hebert, 29, as a deeply religious man, who worked two jobs to support his girlfriend and their two children, and was reacting to fear when he fatally shot Pablo Samniego, 21, in July 2011, after Samniego verbally insulted him and appeared ready to dive headfirst into Hebert's vehicle.
But a prosecutor painted a picture of Hebert as a man who was also a drug dealer, out at 3 a,m. with his girlfriend's sister in the vehicle, who pulled out an illegally obtained loaded gun and shot a drunken, unarmed man in the face, after telling him: "Yo, I'll put you on the f...ing news."
Assistant Attorney General Geoff Ward said instead of driving away and going home after Samniego shouted insults, including the N-word, Hebert drove through a parking lot and waited at the stop sign at Ferry and South Main streets for Samniego and his companion, who were on foot. As Samniego approached the driver side window, with his buddy following and apologizing for his drunken friend, Hebert fired at Samniego from a distance of eight to 10 inches.
Ward said the bullet went through Samniego's head and he fell to the ground. Only then, said Ward, with Samniego dying on the pavement, did Hebert drive away.
Hebert was originally indicted on two second-degree murder charges, one alleging he recklessly caused Samniego's death, the other that he knowingly did so. He had been scheduled for trial, but pleaded guilty to manslaughter Aug. 19, in a so-called "naked plea" with no agreement on sentencing.
Ward is seeking the maximum sentence for manslaughter, 15 to 30 years, saying Hebert objected to his attorneys' statements at the plea hearing when they said the shooting was a reckless act, Ward said Hebert claimed: "If anyone was acting recklessly, it was Pablo."
Even after two years in jail, said Ward, Hebert has no remorse. "This is everyone's fault except his," said Ward. "He blames Pablo for where he is today."
Defense attorneys Caroline Smith and Eric Raymond suggested the man they say is a model prisoner at the Valley Street Jail, serving as a mentor to other prisoners and a model even for corrections officers, should be sentenced to as little as five years.
"He said he didn't mean to shoot him," said Smith. "It's not murder, it's manslaughter." She said Hebert agreed to the manslaughter plea because that's what a jury would have decided if he had gone to trial on the second-degree murder charges.
After a hearing that lasted until nearly 3 p.m., without a lunch break, Garfunkel said he would pronounce sentenced at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.