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Writer on Cape slaying indicted on gun charges

Peter Manso is writing of the death of Christa Worthington.

By Jonathan Saltzman

Globe Staff / August 23, 2008

Peter Manso, the Cape Cod writer who is finishing a book on the 2002 slaying of fashion writer Christa Worthington, was indicted yesterday on a dozen firearms charges and promptly said it was an attempt to silence him by the same law enforcement officials he criticizes in his book.

Truro police officers responding to a burglar alarm at Manso's unoccupied house in December seized three firearms, including an assault rifle. The weapons lacked trigger locks and Manso did not have a valid firearms license, police said.
Manso pleaded not guilty to the six charges in June in Orleans District Court, and his lawyer had hoped to get them dismissed. But yesterday a Barnstable County grand jury indicted Manso on twice as many charges, transferring the case to Superior Court.
Manso attributed the alleged violations largely to a change in state gun laws in 1998 that requires that firearm identification cards be renewed every four years, instead of being valid for life. He said he never received a renewal notice from the state. The real reason for the prosecution, he said, is because of his work.
"What does this say about my First Amendment rights as a journalist?" he said in a statement he read yesterday from his home in Berkley, Calif.
Manso, 67, a biographer of Norman Mailer and Marlon Brando, has spent more than three years on the book about the slaying of Worthington, who was raped and stabbed to death in her house in the affluent seaside town of Truro. During the reporting, Manso unequivocally threw his lot in with the defendant, Christopher M. McCowen, the trash collector convicted of the crime in November 2006 in Barnstable Superior Court.
In particular, Manso has criticized Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe and the Truro police in recent years. In a Globe interview in February, he said police misconduct in the Worthington case was so egregious that it make him think "the Cape is a suburb of ******* Mississippi."
"I am charged with a technical violation of gun possession with an out-of-date permit by the very D.A. who is the focus of my book," Manso said in the statement. The book is to be published by Simon & Schuster.
O'Keefe responded yesterday that he referred the gun case to the Plymouth district attorney's office, which presented evidence to a Barnstable grand jury, specifically to avoid a conflict of interest.
"What they do with the case - you'll have to speak to them," O'Keefe said.
Manso was indicted on charges of illegally possessing a large capacity weapon (a Colt AR-15 assault rifle), four counts of illegally possessing loading devices for that weapon, three counts of illegally possessing firearms, one count of illegally possessing ammunition, and three counts of improperly storing a firearm, according to a spokeswoman for Plymouth prosecutors.
The most serious charge, illegally possessing the assault rifle, carries a minimum sentence of 2 1/2 years in prison and a maximum of 10 years in prison. No date has been set for Manso's next court hearing.
Manso's lawyer, Joseph J. Balliro, of Boston, said that "perhaps half a million" other Massachusetts gun owners were probably equally unaware that they need to renew their licenses. He also said that Truro police searched Manso's house illegally while responding to the alarm.
In July 2002, a State House committee found that thousands of Massachusetts residents were probably unaware that they needed to renew fire identification cards.
Manso told the Globe in February that he believed the guilty verdict in the Worthington case was "vastly off the mark and that the racism I have found to be behind the verdict is something I feel I have to expose here on my Cape Cod."
The defense contended that McCowen had a consensual sexual relationship with Worthington and that someone else killed her.
In June, Barnstable Superior Court Judge Gary A. Nickerson ruled that McCowen did not deserve a new trial, even though a white juror referred to the defendant as a "big black man" during deliberations. Worthington was white. Nickerson made the ruling after a two-day hearing at which he interviewed 12 jurors from the trial one by one on the witness stand.

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Cape writer pleads innocent to firearms charges

Associated Press - October 2, 2008 11:44 AM ET

BARNSTABLE, Mass. (AP) - A Cape Cod author who's writing a book about the murder of fashion writer Christa Worthington has pleaded not guilty to firearms charges.
Peter Manso was released on personal recognizance at his arraignment Wednesday in Barnstable Superior Court on charges including owning a large capacity firearm without a license and three other felony gun charges.
The 67-year-old Manso's book is expected to suggest race played a role in Christopher McCowen's conviction for Worthington's 2002 murder. It's also expected to be harshly critical of investigators in the case.
He has said that's the real reason he was indicted.
He says his guns weren't registered because he was never notified about changes in state gun laws that invalidated his existing permits.

Information from: Cape Cod Times,
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