• Alleged gang leader’s plea deal falls apart
    By Eric Blaisdell
    STAFF WRITER | March 31,2014
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    BARRE — A potential plea deal for the alleged ringleader of a Barre gang fell apart Thursday, although the accused sounded like he actually wanted the deal.

    James A. Manning, 22, aka “Rabbit,” of Barre, in Washington County criminal court is facing two counts of felonious sexual assault on a victim under 16 and a misdemeanor charge of unlawful mischief for allegedly sexually assaulting his underage followers. He is also facing four counts of felonious sexual assault on a victim under 16 for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl.

    In Rutland County, Manning is facing a felony charge of repeated aggravated sexual assault that stems from allegations he sexually assaulted a teenage boy in Rutland in 2012.

    Manning was scheduled for a change of plea hearing on the Barre charges Thursday, but his lawyer, James Lamonda, said “unfortunately, we have no plea.”

    The details of the potential agreement weren’t discussed in court, and Deputy State’s Attorney Megan Campbell said the offer was no longer on the table. The case was set for trial in June.

    Before the hearing was over, Manning said, “I would like to go with the plea deal, but it seems to me that’s changed.”

    Judge Thomas Zonay told Manning that issue was between his attorney and the state. Lamonda told Manning he would be in touch about the case.

    According to the police affidavit on the alleged gang activity, Manning was in charge of a group called the Brotherhood Mafia that was formed in Burlington before moving to Rutland and then Barre. Police said a 15-year-old member of the group saw Manning sexually assault a 14-year-old boy as a form of initiation into the gang.

    Police said the member told them the group was responsible for fires at St. Monica School and a Third Street garage. According to the affidavit, the Barre City Fire Department responded to those two fires and the school was left with black marks on the side of the building, while the garage was a total loss.

    Manning denied sexually assaulting the 14-year-old boy, police said, but did admit having oral sex with the boy twice. He also admitted he had oral sex with the 15-year-old witness twice, sex with a 14-year-old girl once, and oral sex with another 14-year-old boy once, but Manning claimed all the acts were consensual, according to records.

    In the charges involving the girl, police said she told them she and Manning had intercourse three times and oral sex “plenty” of times over a period of two months, from November 2012 to January 2013.

    As for the Rutland charge, police said the teenager, who was 14 at the time, told them he was involved in a sexual relationship with Manning that started in February 2012. During that time, Manning allegedly traveled to Rutland and stayed at a local inn, where the alleged assaults took place.

    Manning is being held at the St. Johnsbury prison on $75,000 bail.
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