PITTSFIELD -- An ex-convict who police say twice accosted women for money -- getting $21 from one of them -- is being held on $30,000 cash bail after denying the charges.
Joseph M. Manning, 47, of McLaughlin Place, stepped in front of the car of a 40-year-old woman on Maplewood Avenue about 7 a.m. Monday, and approached her car window, Pittsfield Police said. Manning told the woman his car was broken down and asked her for money.
When she turned him down, police said, he asked to use her cell phone. When she told him she didn't have one he became angry, reached into her car and allegedly tried to steal her purse. Police said he might have gotten away with it if it hadn't gotten wrapped up in the woman's seat belt.
The woman, fearing for her life, handed over $21, all the money she had with her, according to a police report. Manning allegedly ran off in the direction of First Street.
Three days later, at about 6 p.m. Thursday, law enforcement officers from the county Anti-Gang Unit responded to Elm Street for a report of a man harassing a woman for money.
When they arrived they spoke with a 36-year-old woman who told a similar story to the woman in Monday's incident. He asked the woman for money, telling her his car was broken down, but ran off without getting any money when police showed up, according to the report.
He was arrested as he was walking away from the car.
Both women identified Manning as the person who allegedly accosted them, police and prosecutors said.
In the second incident Manning was charged with misdemeanor disturbing the peace, but in the first case he is facing unarmed robbery, a felony that can only be dealt with in Superior Court.
He allegedly told police he was a heroin and cocaine addict.
Manning pleaded not guilty in Central Berkshire District Court on Friday to both charges.
Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Michael D'angelo asked that Manning be held on $15,000 bail, citing the seriousness of Monday's incident and the defendant's six page criminal record, which includes previous convictions in the 1980s for unarmed robbery and larceny from a person.
Manning's attorney, Joshua C. Hochberg, told the court many of his client's previous charges were either dismissed of ended with probation.
The attorney said his client denied the allegations against him.
"My client informs me he hasn't robbed anyone since 1986," Hochberg told the court. He asked that Manning be given $500 bail.
Judge Paul M. Vrabel, after reading through the defendant's record, remanded him to the Berkshire County Jail & House of Correction on $30,000 cash or $300,000 surety bail.
Manning is also being held on a probation violation out of Chicopee District Court.
In March, Manning was arrested for "aggressively panhandling" in Pittsfield after he blocked an 18-year-old woman with his car who was attempting to leave the parking lot of the McDonald's on Cheshire Road, police said. The woman told police she was intimidated into giving him money.
He allegedly told her he needed gas money and when she tried to give him $10, he told her "$20 would be better." She gave him the money and he left, according to a police report.
A month later he pleaded to sufficient facts for a finding of guilt in Central Berkshire District Court on a charge of disorderly conduct and was ordered to pay a fines and fees of $150 and had the case continued without a finding of guilt for three months.
In his newest case Manning is due back in court next month, but the case may end up in Superior Court.
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