BENNINGTON -- A North Branch Street man was convicted Wednesday by a jury of being in possession of cameras and equipment stolen from Catamount Access Television, a computer stolen from Bennington Potters, and tools from an unknown source.
George A. Mannoia, 37, was found guilty on two felony counts of possession of stolen property. He was also found to be a habitual offender, which means the state has the option of arguing for him to serve up to life in prison at his sentencing hearing scheduled for June 13.
He is currently incarcerated. The trial began Tuesday and ended Wednesday afternoon.
In July, CAT-TV reported $31,000 in equipment had been stolen from its building on Main Street. The crime was publicized by Bennington Police on its Facebook page and through the Bennington Banner. Ultimately police tied the burglary, and nearly half a dozen others, to Merlin Merrow, 27, and Joshua D. Mylott, 24, both of Bennington.
Mylott and Merrow were both charged with multiple felonies. Merrow pleaded guilty to four counts of burglary on Jan. 10 and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 4. Mylott pleaded guilty to three burglary counts on March 11 and is scheduled for sentencing on May 7.
According to Bennington Police, they were led to Mannoia by a person who claimed to have brought him stolen property and seen "high end" cameras in his apartment.
In his closing arguments, Deputy State’s Attorney Alexander Burke said police found an Apple computer reported stolen from Bennington Potters. Cables reported stolen from CAT-TV were also identified from pictures police took of Mannoia’s apartment.
According to Burke, Mannoia told Bennington Police Detective Sgt. David S. Rowland where the cameras could be found and together they rode to Arlington. Burke said it was Rowland’s testimony that Mannoia attempted to contact someone on his phone while they traveled to learn specifically where the cameras were, but before he could make contact he told Rowland the items were not in Arlington, but in Bennington.
Mannoia had told police he did not have the cameras, but could have them returned. Police found them near an apartment by some trash cans where and when Mannoia said.
Burke told the jury that some tools Mannoia had in his apartment were labeled with someone else’s name, and that he had a large amount of electronic equipment despite having been unemployed for months.
The case illustrates three rules, said Mannoia’s attorney, T. Lamar Enzor. One is do not accumulate too much stuff, because police may think you stole it. The second is do not be unemployed while possessing expensive things, lest it be assumed you stole it. Thirdly, be careful about helping police recovery stolen property, otherwise they may accuse you of stealing it.
Enzor said the state had not presented enough evidence to show the items in Mannoia’s apartment were stolen, or that he knew they were stolen. He disagreed with Burke’s assertion that being able to tell someone what to do with items constituted possession of said items, and furthermore there was no evidence at all that the allegedly stolen objects were worth more than $900, which makes their possession felonies.
Burke’s rebuttal was that the computer had Bennington Potters training videos on it, so Mannoia would have known it was stolen, and that he was aware, through the media, that the cameras were likewise stolen. He said the cameras have a 10-year effective lifespan, were not that old, and cost $5,000 to begin with so it was clear they were worth over $900, as was the computer which was valued at $3,000 when it was new.
On Oct. 25, 2012, Mannoia pleaded guilty to a felony count of heroin sale. In 2009 he pleaded guilty to two felony counts of cocaine sale, and a charge of selling marijuana.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @KWhitcombjr.