A man accused of bear-spraying a protest group during a Spenard training session last month, who was acquitted in a Spenard murder case more than two decades ago, will now represent himself at trial on felony assault charges.

Bret Maness, 53, successfully requested the option Tuesday to serve as his own counsel in an April 26 attack on Alaska Grassroots Action members near the Church of Love just north of 36th Avenue. Police say Maness, who was arrested about a week later in Eagle River, was the man who left about a dozen people blinded and coughing in an orange cloud, and was then spotted on surveillance video from the area.

Anchorage police released these images of a man who bear-sprayed a group of Alaska Grassroots Alliance members near the Church of Love at 3502 Spenard Rd. on Saturday, April 21, 2018. (Credit: From APD)

Appearing in court Tuesday morning, Maness – who was cleared of murder charges in the 1997 shooting of neighbor Delbert White – said his main reasons for rejecting a public defender were that “I can’t afford it.” Maness cited the $3,000 in court costs he was assessed after his acquittal in the White case, as well as his fear of not receiving a future Permanent Fund dividend check.

A judge asked Maness about his education level, noting that “obviously you’ve been through the process and it’s better to have counsel, through at least the beginning of the process.”

“I have a GED,” Maness said. “I completed a paralegal correspondence course.”

Maness spoke extensively at a half-hour arraignment hearing late last month, issuing a series of outbursts including “That’s balls!” His statements were prompted by prosecutors bringing up his federal gun convictions in a 2001 Mat-Su confrontation, where he threatened to kill Alaska State Troopers before being shot and wounded in Eklutna by Anchorage police.

Assistant District Attorney Dan Shorey said Tuesday afternoon that both of Maness' felony charges -- burglary and terroristic threatening -- were temporarily dropped because scheduling concerns kept them from being taken before a grand jury within 10 days, as required by state law.

Shorey couldn't discuss any state plans to refile the charges, but said Maness has "every right" to ask for bail reconsideration based on the remaining misdemeanor assault charges he's facing.

"We intend to take Mr. Maness to trial," Shorey said.

Daniella Rivera contributed information to this story.

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