Charles Manning gestures while describing the number of bedbugs in a cup he reportedly dumped at Augusta City Center in June 2017. Manning was photographed during an interview in July 2017 in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

AUGUSTA — A man who in 2017 reportedly slammed a cup containing about 100 bedbugs onto a counter at Augusta City Center, releasing the bugs and prompting closure of the building for the day, is scheduled to face trial later this month, after rejecting offers from the state to settle the case.

Charles Manning, 78, now of Waterville, was charged by Augusta police in July 2017 with assault and obstructing government administration after he allegedly released the bedbugs at the city’s general assistance office the previous month, forcing officials to close the building and bring in a pest control contractor to spray the building to kill the bedbugs that city workers had not caught.

Manning’s court case has dragged on for four years, and he has had at least five lawyers assigned to him, only to have them withdraw from his case, most of them citing an inability to communicate effectively with Manning.

The case now appears headed for a jury trial, scheduled for Oct. 18.

Manning’s current lawyer, Stephen Smith, told Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy on Wednesday, “My client definitely wants his day in court,” during a docket call at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta.

Tyler LeClair, an assistant district attorney for Kennebec County, said the state offered to dismiss the assault charge if Manning agreed to plead guilty to the remaining obstructing government administration charge and pay the city $234 in restitution.

LeClair said that amount would not have covered the cost of the cleanup at the city-owned building but would have been enough restitution to get the state to drop the assault charge and issue an unconditional discharge, meaning there would be no probation or other punishment, on the remaining charge.

Manning has not accepted the state’s offer for a plea deal.

The building at 43 Court St. in Augusta where Charles Manning lived in 2017. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

Manning’s case has moved slowly, in part because the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed many court cases. Manning has also been through many lawyers, some of whom have said they were unable to work with him. Manning has also missed some court proceedings for his case, including jury selection in May.

There was a warrant for Manning’s arrest following that, but Murphy recalled the warrant Wednesday. Manning did not appear in person in court Wednesday, but Smith, who appeared in court via a video feed from his office, said Manning was with him at his office. Manning did not address the court.

In an interview following the reported bedbug incident at Augusta City Center, Manning said he dumped the cupful of live bedbugs because city officials were not addressing his complaints about substandard housing; specifically, that his apartment was infested with bedbugs.

He said the bedbugs were so bad he could not sleep at night. He said he brought the bedbugs, which he had collected from his now-former apartment at 43 Court St., as proof of the infestation.

Manning said he later realized he had dumped the bedbugs at the wrong city department — the general assistance office — after his request for financial assistance was rejected. He apparently had meant to dump the bugs at the code enforcement office, which was where he had expressed frustration previously about bedbugs at his apartment.

Code enforcement officials said they spoke with Manning’s landlord at the time, who said he was treating the bedbug problem and Manning had moved out of that apartment building.

In August 2017, Manning told a judge extensive publicity had portrayed him as “the reincarnation of Hitler” and city officials as “innocent angels.” He said he wanted a jury trial because he had “a feeling that the people who live in Augusta are a lot more compassionate than the people that run it.”

A state prosecutor said Manning’s mental health has been evaluated and officials have found him competent to stand trial.

The charges against Manning are Class D offenses, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

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