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Wednesday, 13 November 2013 00:00

Maggie man pleads to reduced charges in dispute with town

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After getting caught up in the politics of Maggie Valley and facing felony forgery charges, Joseph Maniscalco Thursday pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor charges.

 

Maniscalco was originally charged with five misdemeanors and three felonies, but the charges were reduced in return for accepting the plea agreement.

“They reduced all the charges to like a parking ticket, misdemeanor one, so I took it,” Maniscalco said.

Assistant District Attorney Rachael Groffsky said the DA’s office decided to broker a deal with the 76-year-old Maggie Valley resident partly because of his spotless criminal record. Maniscalco doesn’t have so much as a parking ticket on his record, she said.

There is also the matter of the animosity between Maniscalco and Maggie Valley employees, particularly Mayor Ron DeSimone. Some have alleged that the charges against Maniscalco were less about his possible wrongdoing and more about the feud over Maniscalco’s efforts to be de-annexed from the town.

“I know there is political heat and turmoil in Maggie Valley,” Groffsky said.

Maniscalco has tried for years to be de-annexed from Maggie Valley, claiming that he can’t and doesn’t receive town services and therefore shouldn’t have to pay town taxes. Town employees have alleged that Maniscalco’s contact with them over this disagreement reached the point of harassment.

A town employee was actually the one who brought Maniscalco’s misconduct to the attention of the authorities. It was alleged that Maniscalco created false documents stating that his property was no longer part of the town limits and tried to file them at the county Register of Deeds office.

“I never ever would do anything like that,” Maniscalco said of the forgery charges, calling the whole matter “a political move.”

Maniscalco was charged with five counts of common law uttering, two counts of forgery and one count of obtaining property under false pretenses. Under an agreement with the District Attorney’s office, however, only four of the common law uttering charges will show up on his record.

Common law uttering is a crime that occurs when someone presents a document they know to be false, for instance a fake ID, a stolen check or forged property records.

“That is the strongest case that the state had,” Groffsky said of the misdemeanor charges.

There was strong evidence that Maniscalco tried to pass off false documents at the county’s Register of Deeds office.

“We are both obviously very happy with the outcome of having that many felonies reduced,” said Anthony Tuorto, an attorney with the Minick Law in Asheville who represented Maniscalco.

Maniscalco will have to pay a $100 fine, complete 24 hours of community service and must not contact the Register of Deeds or Maggie Valley employees unless he needs to complete some official business.

If he violates any of these during his 18-month probation, Maniscalco will have to serve 90 days in jail.

Maniscalco said he did not want to spend thousands of dollars to fight the charges and possibly end up with an unfavorable jury.

“That is a lot of money for no reason,” Maniscalco said. “I didn’t want to take the chance.”

However, he may not be out of court for long. Maniscalco said he is considering a lawsuit against the town.

“I’ll have to speak to my attorneys about that issue. I would like to,” he said.

He also plans to continue fighting for de-annexation.

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