Tuesday April 2, 2013

KEITH WHITCOMB JR.

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- A man who had parts of Dorset on edge over reported thefts four years ago was held without bail Monday after being charged as a habitual offender by the state.

Benjamin S. Payne, 32, of Bridle Path in Arlington, pleaded not guilty in Bennington Superior Court Criminal Division to a felony count of burglary and two misdemeanor counts of petit larceny. Payne was under furlough at the time of his arrest and was held for allegedly violating its conditions by being charged, however Judge David Howard also imposed $1,000 bail for the misdemeanor charges should Payne be released at a future point. If he posts bail he will be under a 24-hour curfew at his residence. The state has filed a habitual offender enhancement against Payne meaning if he is convicted of a new felony the state can argue for up to life in prison.

In 2009, when Payne was arraigned on a number of theft-related charged members of the Dorset Select Board attended the hearing. According to prosecutors the board and State Police had held meetings regarding Payne’s activities and Dorset residents had developed a phone tree to report Payne sightings. At the time Payne was living in Dorset.

That year Payne pleaded guilty to 10 charges that included identity theft and burglary. The state dropped a number of other charges and withdrew its habitual offender enhancement as well as agreed it would not argue for a sentence greater than 20 years.


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In 2010 Payne was given a zero- to three-year sentence with credit for the time he had served. In March 2012 Payne was charged with violating his furlough agreement and in May of that year pleaded guilty to having done so and was sentenced to serve between seven and eight months, again with credit for the time he had served.

According to an affidavit by Manchester Police Officer Paul McGann on March 27, 2013, he was sent to Maplefield’s at Manchester to speak with Linda Dittemeier, the store’s manager, who had reported Payne stealing two cartons of cigarettes from the store.

Payne was still at the store when McGann arrived and denied taking cigarettes. McGann said he viewed surveillance tapes showing Payne enter the store’s office and look through two bags. It also showed a table with four cartons of cigarettes on it. McGann wrote that Payne’s back was to the camera but it appeared as though he were putting something down his pants. Payne entered and left the office twice, each time it appearing as though he were placing something in his pants. Each time a carton of cigarettes was gone from the table.

Police said they were unable to locate any cigarette carton covers in the area’s trash cans.

According to a separate affidavit by Vermont State Trooper Wayne Godfrey, on March 9 he responded to Arlington Family Practice in Arlington where a nurse there said Payne took $1.54 worth in needles and tourniquets after she stepped out of the room while treating him.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr