GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

March 17, 2010

DA drops most of charges in Manchester gun case

By Julie Manganis

MANCHESTER — Prosecutors have dropped a majority of the charges against a Manchester man accused by his estranged wife and police of preparing for martial law with an arsenal of weapons in their Bridge Street condo last month.

However, the judge hearing the case refused to allow Gregory Girard, 45, to be freed on bail in light of the reduced charges.

"I still consider Mr. Girard to be a danger to the community," Judge Richard Mori said.

Girard's Feb. 9 arrest was heavily publicized, after police pulled a collection of 11 rifles and two handguns, thousands of rounds of ammunition, as well as other weapons and military-style gear from his home at 23B Bridge St..

He still faces charges of discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling and two counts of illegal possession of silencers.

Girard held a class A firearms license and all of the guns were legally registered. Girard was charged, however, with illegally possessing so-called "infernal machines," five items originally described as "grenades."

Those devices turned out to be legal smoke and tear gas grenades and are not covered under the legal definition of infernal machines.

Additionally, four counts of carrying a dangerous weapon — police batons and double-edged knives found in the condo and on Girard's boat — were dropped because at the time the charges were filed, Girard was not actually carrying the weapons, which are not illegal to own and keep in a home.

Girard's attorney, Rebecca Whitehill, argued yesterday that the law allows a homeowner to fire a weapon inside of his own home, and that the devices seized by police on Girard's boat are not silencers but flash suppressors that Girard wanted to use on his boat so he did not violate the law against sending up a flare that could be mistaken for a distress signal.

A state police lab is in the process of testing the suspected silencers.

Prosecutors also intend to keep the case in Salem District Court, which precludes any potential for state prison time on the remaining counts.

Whitehill tried yesterday to convince Mori to reconsider his decision to hold Girard without bail in light of the reduction in charges.

Prosecutor Michelle DeCourcey opposed the request, saying that the facts of the case have not changed, only the charges. Mori agreed, denying Whitehill's request.

Girard is due back in court on April 1.

Julie Manganis may be contacted at jmanganis@gloucestertimes.com.