Bail reduced for alleged thief

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BENNINGTON — A judge has reduced bail for a man charged as a habitual offender after he allegedly stole over $1,000 worth of tools from a Manchester hardware store.

Kenneth R. Armstrong, 40, was ordered held without bail at his arraignment last month after denying two felony charges. Judge David A. Howard last week set Armstrong's cash at $5,000. He'd be released with conditions when bail is posted. Howard wrote in a decision Friday that while the weight of evidence was great, he did not find Armstrong a substantial risk tot the public.

Armstrong allegedly stole some $1,200 worth of tools from R.K. Miles Hardware on Aug. 21. Video surveillance allegedly showed a man, identified as Armstrong, walking through the store placing items in a cart and, when he saw employees helping other customers, exit the store without paying, according to an affidavit. Armstrong pleaded not guilty in Vermont Superior Court Bennington Criminal Division on Aug. 23 to felony retail theft and possessing stolen property. Armstrong was charged as a habitual offender because he has been convicted of three or more felonies, meaning prosecutors could argue up to life in prison. Deputy State's Attorney Robert F. Plunkett, during a hearing Thursday, said Armstrong's criminal history showed numerous convictions, as well as multiple failures to appear for court.

Defense attorney Susan Keane McManus asked that Armstrong be released with bail, which she said would allow him to continue employment. His criminal history showed he was a non-violent offender with no history of assaults, she said.

Armstrong will return to court for his pending case on Oct. 21.

Reach staff writer Edward Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111 or @edamon_banner.

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