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Man to be freed after judge finds plea deal was kept secret

VIRGINIA BEACH (AP) A Virginia Beach man has accepted a plea deal nearly six years after it was offered.

Navy veteran Lester Belmar Jr. was sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges including murder. Belmar said he learned weeks after his 2013 sentencing that he had been offered a plea deal — one his lawyer allegedly kept secret, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

The April 11 state court hearing was prompted by a decision from U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne concluding Belmar’s former attorney, Martin Bullock, hid the deal. Bullock said Belmar rejected the deal. Payne ruled that Belmar was more credible when he said he was not told about the deal.

Belmar’s earlier convictions were thrown out and he pleaded to involuntary manslaughter and unlawful wounding.

He was sentenced to 4 ½ years, a term less than the nearly 5 years he’s already served. He’s expected to be released soon.

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