SEABROOK — A local man who shot and killed a man last year but was not charged in his murder is now facing federal charges in connection with the same incident for allegedly being a felon in possession of a weapon.
Garrito “Tony” Fort, 38, formerly of Seabrook, was arraigned Tuesday on one count of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a prohibited person. He pleaded not guilty but is being held in custody pending a bail hearing on Friday, according to the office of U.S. Attorney for the District of New Hampshire Jane E. Young.
Fort, a convicted felon, is charged with the unlawful possession of a Taurus 9mm caliber pistol and assorted 9mm ammunition on November 1, 2021, when he shot and injured Richard Janvrin, Jr., 50, and fatally shot 35-year-old Christopher Coletti, both of Seabrook, during an altercation that took place at Fort’s home on Boynton Lane.
He was indicted on the charge by a federal grand jury in August and was taken into custody in Rhode Island on Sept. 19 by U.S. Marshals. If convicted, Fort faces a possible sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison.
Fort had previously been in custody in New Hampshire for three charges, but was released in March on personal recognizance bail by Judge David Ruoff after the New Hampshire Attorney General’s decision not to bring murder charges against him.
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Fort claimed he shot Janvrin and Coletti in self-defense following a dispute the night before the altercation over damage Coletti allegedly caused to Fort’s vehicle. According to court documents, Fort’s attorney, Brett Newkirk, claimed they threatened Fort with metal “bars and clubs.”
According to the Attorney General’s Office, despite video surveillance footage of the shooting incident, state prosecutors felt they did not have sufficient evidence to disprove Fort’s claim of self-defense. As a result, the AG’s office dropped the homicide charge.
Fort was still charged in New Hampshire for being a felon in possession of a firearm and two unrelated charges to the November 2021 incident. He faces trial on the charges later this year.
However, after the AG’s decision, Newkirk filed a motion to allow Fort to be released from custody on bail.
Although the bail motion was opposed by the Rockingham County Attorney’s Office, Ruoff ruled Fort’s pre-trial detention was no longer warranted, releasing him on personal recognizance.
The two unrelated state charges, assault and battery and criminal threatening, were filed against him after the shooting.
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The first two were on Oct. 7, when he allegedly threatened a homeless couple sleeping in their car near his Boynton Lane home. According to court documents, Fort allegedly “stuck a gun” to the side of the head of the woman in the car, saying “get the (expletive) out of here.” He allegedly then pistol-whipped the man in the car, causing a broken finger and lacerations to his face, injuries allegedly requiring an emergency room visit.
The third incident occurred later in October when Fort allegedly threatened a man walking his dog near Fort’s property, saying “get the (expletive) out of here,” and again alleging holding a gun at the time.
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At his bail hearing in March, Rockingham County Deputy Attorney Melissa Fales argued Fort should remain in custody since his behavior hadn’t changed and he still presents a danger due to that behavior and has a significant criminal history that includes kidnapping and assault and battery charges from Massachusetts.
Newkirk argued bail should be "perceived in a different light," given the attorney general's decision not to move forward with the homicide charge. He also challenged the reliability of the testimony of those involved in the felony charges.
According to court documents, Ruoff ruled, "... the fact that the attorney general's office has announced that it will not be filing homicide charges against the defendant is a significant factor in the court's 'dangerousness' and 'risk of flight' assessment."
In his ruling, Ruoff also wrote: "To be clear, the Court is not finding that the pending charges are not serious or that, if convicted, the defendant would not be significantly punished for his behavior. However, bail is not supposed to be penal in nature – it is not for punishment."
As part of Fort’s bail conditions, he was prohibited from remaining in New Hampshire. Initially ordered to stay at his father’s home in Randolph, Massachusetts, after his father moved the location requirement in Fort’s bail conditions was altered.
This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Seabrook NH man charged in federal court after shooting death