AUGUSTA — A man accused of dumping a cupful of live bedbugs onto a counter at Augusta City Center in 2017 has been assigned a new lawyer, his fifth in three years.
Charles Manning, 77, formerly of Augusta and now of Waterville, was charged by Augusta police in June 2017 with assault and obstructing government administration. He allegedly slammed a cup containing about 100 living bedbugs onto a counter at Augusta City Center, releasing the bugs into the General Assistance office.
In an interview after he was charged, Manning said he dumped the bedbugs because he felt city officials were not addressing his complaints that his apartment was infested with the hard-to-get-rid-of bloodsuckers.
Manning was in court alone Wednesday, because his fourth and most recent defense lawyer, Thomas Tilton of Waterville, had withdrawn from the case.
In a motion to withdraw from Manning’s case, Tilton wrote communication between the two had broken down to the point it would no longer be in Manning’s best interest for Tilton to defend him.
Three other lawyers were briefly appointed to represent Manning in 2017, but each withdrew, with two of the three citing similar difficulties communicating with him, and the third saying he was unable to represent Manning in a timely manner due to other pending legal matters.
On Wednesday, Justice William Stokes appointed lawyer Mariah Gleaton of Waterville to represent Manning, and urged Manning to contact her soon.
Manning, who has said he wants his case to go to a jury trial, requested his case and potential trial be moved to Waterville, where he lives, because he does not have a car and transportation to Augusta is hard to come by.
“It’s the state of Maine against me, so anywhere in the state of Maine should be allowed” as a court location for his case, Manning said. “I don’t have my own transportation. How am I supposed to get around (to court)? I’m getting a little old to walk 40 miles.”
Stokes, who served as Augusta’s mayor from 2011 to 2014 before he resigned to become a superior court justice, said he could not grant Manning’s request to move the case to Waterville, which is a district, not superior, court.
“Mr. Manning, I don’t want to be rude, but I can’t do that,” Stokes said of moving the trial, noting that Manning’s latest lawyer, Gleaton, is in Waterville.
A state prosecutor said Manning’s mental health was evaluated and officials determined he is competent to stand trial.
Manning did not show up for his first scheduled mental health evaluation, according to court documents, and has also missed some previous court dates.
The charges against him are Class D misdemeanors, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.
After Manning allegedly dumped the bedbugs at Augusta City Center, on June 2, 2017, a Friday afternoon, the facility was closed to the public and a pest control contractor was brought in to spray the building to kill any bedbugs that city workers had not caught.
City officials said when Manning released the bedbugs, he was seeking General Assistance money but had learned he did not qualify for it.
Manning was reportedly upset because he did not feel the city had helped him when he reported his apartment building’s bedbug problem.
However, it was officials in the city’s code enforcement office — not General Assistance — with whom Manning had spoken previously about the bedbug problem.
Code enforcement officials said they spoke with Manning’s landlord at the time, who said he was treating the bedbug problem, and Manning moved out of that apartment building.