BELCHERTOWN — A judge set bail for two men accused of playing roles in an October home invasion and robbery in Amherst during dangerousness hearings Feb. 8.
John Niemiec III, 29, of Sunderland, and Stephanos Georgiadis, 25, of Hadley, had been held without bail since their arraignments last week. They appeared a second time in Eastern Hampshire District Court Wednesday morning as a judge heard arguments for bail.
Niemiec earlier pleaded not guilty to two charges of conspiracy and Georgiadis pleaded not guilty to armed robbery, and assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon.
The two men, as well as Patrick Bemben, 25, formerly of Hadley, are believed to have helped ransack a home at 943 South East St. for drugs and valuables, while armed and decked out in tactical gear, in the early morning hours of Oct. 30, according to authorities.
When Bemben was arraigned, Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Steven Gagne said that some of the men who lived in the residence confronted masked assailants in the driveway where a fight broke out. One of the residents was badly sliced on an arm with a hatchet, Gagne said, while Bemben was struck in the head with a baseball bat.
The men accused in the attack fled into a wooded area behind the home where numerous items typically used in marijuana production were recovered, according to police. A large container with more than a pound of marijuana was also located, police said. After the foot pursuit, prosecutors said, Bemben was in possession of goggles, a headlamp, a tactical bulletproof vest, a hatchet, pepper spray, various knives and a baton.
Bemben was released on $35,000 cash bail and is receiving treatment at the Recovery Center of Americas in Westminster. He pleaded not guilty in Hampshire Superior Court last month to charges of conspiracy to commit home invasion, conspiracy to commit armed masked robbery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon causing serious injury, three counts of armed masked robbery, nighttime breaking and entering with intent to commit a felony, larceny from a building and use of body armor during a felony.
Police identified Niemiec and Georgiadis using Bemben’s cellphone records.
Assistant District Attorney Andy Covington withdrew the state’s request that Niemiec be held without bail and instead requested $10,000 with conditions.
Niemiec is believed to have served as a lookout. His defense attorney, Jared Olanoff, argued there was no physical or forensic evidence against his client.
“The evidence against him is very thin,” Olanoff said. “I think someone roped him in and asked him to stand by with a truck.”
Olanoff described Niemiec as having “virtually no record” and being gainfully employed since he was 14 years old. Olanoff said that Niemiec’s mother, who was present for the hearing, described her son as a “kid who’s never really done anything bad.”
Judge William O’Grady set bail for Niemiec at $5,000 with conditions that he live in Colrain with his mother, report to probation three times per week while he is unemployed and not use alcohol or drugs.
Niemiec was released after posting bail and is due back in court March 31.Bail for Georgiadis
As Georgiadis was led handcuffed into the courtroom’s holding cell, several of his friends and family seated in the galley began to cry. Georgiadis kept his eyes downcast through most of the hearing.
Covington asked that Georgiadis be held without bail and if that was found unacceptable by the judge, to set bail at $20,000.
Covington said police, using phone records, learned Georgiadis and Bemben had been in contact more than 200 times before the incident.
Georgiadis’ attorney, Marissa Elkins, asked that bail be set at no more than $5,000, which is more than his family would be able to post Wednesday. Coming up with $5,000 would be a “meaningful sacrifice,” she said.
“This case was made against both my client and others because he cooperated,” Elkins said. “His cooperation is why the commonwealth is here today.”
Elkins described him as “hard working” and said he had no criminal record.
Georgiadis consented to two interviews by police, according to both attorneys.
According to Covington, Georgiadis initially admitted to police only that he had helped plan the robbery. During a second interview, he allegedly told police he entered the home with Bemben.
O’Grady set bail at $10,000 with conditions that if he is released that he not leave the state, that he live with his mother in Hadley, and remain drug- and alcohol-free.
He is due back in court March 8. Following the hearing, Elkins said she did not know if her client would be able to post bail.
Both cases are expected to be presented to a grand jury.
Emily Cutts can be reached at email@example.com.