BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — BEVERLY — A career criminal wanted in at least four other states is being held on $750,000 cash bail, charged in two “smash-and-grab” burglaries at a Beverly jewelry store last winter and suspected in more than a dozen others around New England.
James Radler, 51, who had been staying at the Knights Inn in Danvers, pleaded not guilty to two counts each of breaking and entering and malicious destruction of property and to being a fugitive from justice during his arraignment yesterday in Salem District Court.
Radler, described by Beverly police as a “one-man crime spree,” was arrested at the Route 1 motel early Saturday morning on a warrant.
Prosecutors say they are eyeing him in similar crimes in Peabody, Danvers, Swampscott and Andover. He has also been linked to at least 10 other burglaries around New England, according to Beverly police.
At the time of the Beverly burglaries, he was out on bail in a Rhode Island case, in which police charged him with possessing burglarious tools after seeing him appear to “case” a store in Barrington.
He was also on parole in an Idaho fraud case, according to court documents.
Prosecutors allege that Radler twice smashed his way into Desjardins Jewelers on Enon Street (Route 1A), the first time on Dec. 23, and then again about a week later, on Jan. 1.
Police arriving at the store after the first break discovered a 15-pound dumbbell inside the door and surmised that the burglar used it to smash the door, prosecutor Greg Friedholm told a judge.
Display cases containing diamond jewelry and watches were smashed and looted, according to a police report by Patrolman Darlene Prinz.
But the burglar also left behind blood, which Beverly police submitted to the state lab for DNA testing.
Meanwhile, the jeweler was hit again, in the early-morning hours of New Year’s Day. This time, police found a 20-pound dumbbell inside the smashed door. And, as in the earlier burglary, display cases inside the store were smashed.
A store employee told police that on Dec. 22, a customer who said his name was “Jim” was in the store and spent an “unusual” amount of time looking at items in the display cases, Friedholm told Judge Michael Lauranzano.
Then, last month, police learned of a match between the DNA found in the bloody glass shards sent to the lab and Radler, whose record stretches across the United States and back to 1979, Friedholm told the judge.
The clerk who remembered helping “Jim” was shown a photo array that included Radler’s picture, and she identified him as the inquisitive customer from Dec. 22, the prosecutor said.
Beverly police then checked pawn shops all over New England and discovered some 20 transactions involving items that were taken from Desjardins, Friedholm told the judge.
Beverly police say Radler is linked to some $460,000 worth of stolen jewelry in burglaries all over New England and New York.
“Removing this criminal from our streets has made Beverly and surrounding communities safer,” said Beverly police Chief Mark Ray, who went on to praise what he called “tenacious” work by Prinz.
Friedholm, a prosecutor who is assigned to Superior Court cases, told the judge he is preparing to seek indictments against Radler within the month in connection with the Beverly case, as well as the other burglaries in Essex County.
The prosecutor requested $750,000 bail, citing Radler’s lack of ties to the area, as well as warrants in Wenatchee, Wash., and in Rutland and Bennington, Vt. The Boise State Penitentiary has also issued a parole violation warrant.
Radler’s record includes convictions in Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Alabama, Idaho, Maine and New York for burglary, larceny, fraud, fleeing police and grand theft auto between 1979 and 2005, when he was convicted of grand theft auto in Idaho.
Defense lawyer Edward McNaught called the prosecutor’s requested bail “impossible” for Radler or his family to make and suggested a lower bail of $5,000. McNaught argued that while his client’s record is lengthy, the most recent conviction was in 2005.
And, he argued, the only connection between Radler and the burglaries is “based solely on DNA.”
But the judge was not persuaded, granting the prosecutor’s request to set Radler’s bail at $750,000. Lauranzano also ordered that Radler remain held without bail on the fugitive from justice charge, though it’s not clear whether Idaho will seek extradition in that case.
A status hearing is scheduled for July 8.
In the early 1990s, Radler spent about a week in the same jail as Kevin Harris, who, along with white supremacist Randy Weaver, was accused in a deadly 11-day standoff with federal agents in 1992 at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. The two were later acquitted, but Radler had apparently offered to testify that Harris made a jailhouse confession, according to published reports at the time.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.