Bear spray assault suspect intends to claim self defense
The suspect in an April bear spray attack on people at a nonviolence training has notified prosecutors he plans to claim self-defense during his September trial.
Bret Maness, 53, is accused of walking into the Church of Love in Spenard and discharging potent bear spray on a group of roughly a dozen attendees there to learn about peaceful protest techniques.
The self-proclaimed "Godfather of Metal" with reported neo-nazi ties has insisted on remaining pro se, meaning he's acting as his own attorney, defending himself against four felony charges and 11 misdemeanors.
Maness' case file related to the bear spraying contains several handwritten motions, filed while he's been incarcerated.
In a motion dated June 27, Maness requests the felony charge against him of terroristic threatening in the first degree be thrown out, arguing the charge doesn't apply because "pepper spray is not legally a material capable of causing serious physical injury."
Anchorage Superior Court Judge Catherine Easter denied the motion, concluding, "The statute, however, does not require that a substance be capable of causing serious physical injury. If the material's appearance would lead a reasonable person to believe that it is capable of causing serious injury, it fits the definition of an imitation substance under the statute."
The number of charges filed against Maness increased after his case went before a grand jury, where Maness requested the opportunity to testify.
According to the State's trial brief, Maness testified during grand jury that "he was attacked by a 'mob' of people from inside the Spenard building. Maness further testified that he did not use any pepper spray to defend himself. For these statements he was indicted for perjury."
Assistant District Attorney Daniel Shorey wrote the assault Maness described against himself is "fictitious."
In a motion dated July 3, Maness demanded the recusal of the prosecution team, arguing that they're "crucial witnesses" who "coerced the grand jury into indicting" Maness on the three counts of perjury.
Judge Easter also denied that motion.
Maness also filed a notice of four expert witnesses and his intention to "raise self-defense to all charges with the exception of the 3 perjury charges".
In his trial brief, Shorey wrote that it seems "Maness seeks to introduce victim character evidence to support a self-defense claim even though he's previously denied, under oath, defending himself. [...] Accordingly, any attempt to introduce evidence of the victim's character may only be presented after the defendant concedes he entered the building, carrying pepper spray, used the pepper spray, and assaulted the eleven victims. Unless and until the defendant admits that he assaulted the victims any testimony regarding the victims alleged bad character is not relevant and not admissible."
Shorey's brief requests the court to place several restrictions on Maness, including barring him from turning his pro se status into an opportunity to be a witness without taking the stand.
"This status as a pro se litigant does not provide Maness with excuses to violate court rulings, ignore evidentiary rules, or testify without first being sworn," Shorey wrote.
In a response to the State's trial brief Maness wrote, "Mr. Maness is aware of his duty not to submit unsworn testimony to a jury and has run trial as a pro se litigant. He does submit that at times a pro se litigant is between a rock and a hard place when trying to communicate to the jury without seeming to testify and may need a moment to collect his thoughts and phrase sentences in the third person. Mr. Maness begs the court's indulgence in this matter."
When asked if he feels the case is on track to go before a jury as scheduled on September 23, Shorey wrote in an email, "At this point, the State anticipates a September trial."
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