PITTSFIELD — A New York man is accused of attempting to blackmail a Berkshire County woman into performing sex acts on an 18-month-old boy by pretending to be two people using different online identities.
Gary P. Montana, 32, of Hudson, and Erica Emerling of Pittsfield, 29, are each charged with raping and assaulting the child as well as posing him in sexual acts.
Emerling was arraigned in Berkshire Superior Court in late August and released on personal recognizance. Montana was picked up on a warrant and arraigned Sept. 13.
Montana was ordered held without bail, pending Wednesday's dangerousness hearing, to determine if bail should be set, or if he should remain held. Judge John Agostini took the matter under advisement, but said he would have a decision soon.
Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Joseph Yorlano acknowledged it was an unusual step to seek to have a defendant in a child rape case held without bail, because there are less-restrictive means to ensure the safety of victims and the community than denying bail.
Montana's attorney, Dale Bass, noted his client's lack of record and said Montana has no way of knowing the child's whereabouts, as he is in state custody, mitigating the concern that he may pose a danger to the boy.
Bass argued the alleged facts against Montana are specific to this case and there's been no suggestion or accusation of similar behavior in the past. He said the state is also not in possession of photos or video and noted its case against Montana appears to rely on the word of Emerling.
Yorlano said the state took the extra step to attempt to keep Montana held without bail, based in large part on the unique manner in which he got access to Emerling and the boy.
Yorlano said Montana, posing as a man named "Brian," began corresponding with Emerling online.
Over time, despite never having met "Brian," Emerling considered herself in a relationship with him. At some point, she sent "Brian" compromising photos. It was unclear from information presented in court whether those photos only featured Emerling or whether there were also photos of the child.
"Brian" had made arrangements with Emerling to spend New Year's Eve together at a Pittsfield motel. "Brian" told her that his brother, "Mike," would pick up her and the boy and take them to the motel.
"Mike" was Montana's second alleged alias.
Once at the motel, "Brian" texted Emerling and said he wouldn't be able to make the trip, but convinced her that she should sleep with his "brother."
The next day, "Brian" again contacted Emerling and allegedly told her that she needed to perform sex acts on the boy, otherwise he would make the photos she had sent him public.
Montana, posing as "Mike" allegedly filmed the incident.
A few days later, "Brian" allegedly convinced Emerling to perform sex acts with the child again by threatening to blackmail her, but this time it was broadcast live via Facebook, Yorlano said.
Yorlano said if Agostini is inclined to set bail, the state would ask it be set at $15,000.
Bass recommended a bail no higher than $1,000, but would agree to conditions including no unsupervised contact with children under 16 and GPS monitoring.
Montana and Emerling have both pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated rape of a child with force, aggravated indecent assault and battery on a child under 14 and posing a child in a sex act.
Montana is due back in court on Jan. 21 for a pretrial hearing.
Bob Dunn can be reached at email@example.com, at @BobDunn413 on Twitter and 413-496-6249.