• Sex charges multiply for alleged gang leader
    By Eric Blaisdell
     | March 20,2013
     
    Stefan HardStaff Photo

    James Manning, 21, of Barre, left, consults his attorney Tuesday, when he was arraigned on new charges in Barre. Manning is now facing six counts of felonious sexual assault on an individual younger than 16 and one count of unlawful mischief.

    BARRE — The alleged ringleader of a central Vermont gang who is accused of sexually assaulting his underage followers has picked up additional charges of sex assault on a 14-year-old girl.

    James A. Manning, 21, aka “Rabbit,” of Barre, pleaded innocent to four counts of felony sexual assault on a victim under 16 on Tuesday in Washington County criminal court in Barre. He is already facing two counts of felony sexual assault on a victim under 16 and a misdemeanor charge of unlawful mischief.

    If convicted of all the charges, Manning faces a maximum of 120Ĺ years in prison and a $60,500 fine.

    According to an affidavit filed Tuesday, the 14-year-old girl told police she and Manning had intercourse three times and oral sex “plenty” of times over a period of two months, from November to January.

    The girl told police Manning would manipulate her by threatening to kill himself whenever she would try to leave him, according to the affidavit. She also said he ignored her and turned his back to her when he tried to have sex with her at the end of November and she said no.

    According to the police affidavit in the original case, Manning was in charge of a group called the Brotherhood Mafia that started in Burlington and moved to Rutland and then Barre. Police say a 15-year-old member of the group told them he saw Manning sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy as a form of initiation into the group.

    The witness also said Manning sexually assaulted him and hit him in the head with a baseball bat as a form of initiation, police said.

    The witness also told police the Brotherhood Mafia would go around the city setting fires, slashing tires, breaking into vehicles and writing graffiti on walls under the direction of Manning and another man, according to the affidavit. Some of the fires that the police say the group set were at St. Monica School and a Third Street garage. The group also allegedly went to Eastman Auto in Barre Town in September and slashed tires and took vehicle emblems.

    Police interviewed Manning at the end of January and he denied that his club was a gang, according to the affidavit, but instead called it a “group of friends that would hang out.” He said the group would wear black and white and was for “troubled youth that needed people to talk to,” police say.

    Police say Manning denied sexually assaulting the 14-year-old boy but did admit having oral sex with him twice. He also admitted that 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 claimed all the sex acts were consensual, according to records.

    Manning was already scheduled to be in court Tuesday for a bail review hearing. Manning's attorney, James Lamonda, asked the court to reduce Manning's bail and release him on home confinement under the supervision of his father and a GPS monitor. Lamonda said Manning has post-traumatic stress disorder from watching a friend kill himself around three years ago and needs mental health treatment.

    Lamonda also said that because of the charges he faces, Manning is targeted by other inmates. The lawyer said he has seen Manning with a black eye and marks on his body as a result of the assaults. Manning is being held at the St. Johnsbury prison on $75,000 bail.

    Deputy State's Attorney Megan Campbell said the state was against lowering the bail or releasing Manning. She said an official with the Department of Corrections told her that if Manning was granted home confinement, no one would be checking on him and if he did flee it could take up to 24 hours for authorities to be notified. Campbell also noted that Manning's father lives with a man connected to the gang activity according to the police affidavits.

    When Judge Thomas Zonay read off what Manning is accused of doing before giving his decision, Manning repeatedly shook his head. Zonay denied the requests for lower bail and home confinement.

    “The defendant is someone who appears to have rules that he wanted to have. It was his determination as to what would occur. He was the boss of his gang, and the court has little faith that he will appear as he is supposed to without a significant amount of bail,” Zonay said.

    Manning started crying as Zonay added that home confinement was also not appropriate because the court did not have faith that Manning's father's supervision would be sufficient.

    As for Manning being attacked in jail, Zonay said that is something that should not happen.

    “The fact that you are being charged with a crime and the fact that you are being held at this time does not mean that you are open season or anyone should be able to victimize you,” Zonay said.

    The judge asked the Washington County sheriff's deputies transporting Manning back to St. Johnsbury to communicate to the facility about the allegations of Manning being assaulted.

    eric.blaisdell

    @timesargus.com

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