SALEM — Two men are facing armed robbery charges after police said they mugged a 20-year-old Salem man at knifepoint Wednesday night.
Eric Rentas, 25, of 3 Roslyn Court and John Diaz, 20, of 11 Harbor St., both in Salem, pleaded not guilty at their arraignments in Salem District Court yesterday.
Salem police Lt. Conrad Prosniewski told a judge that the victim was walking on Harbor Street just before 10 p.m. when he was approached from behind by the pair. One of the men allegedly pulled out a small, black knife and demanded money. The pair then pulled the victim’s jacket over his head, knocked him to the ground, punched and kicked him, and went through his pockets, taking about $80 in cash, according to police.
The men allegedly ran into a Harbor Street apartment building.
The victim went home and told his mother, who accompanied him back to the scene, where they began yelling at the windows, demanding the money be returned. Instead, the pair came back, carrying a baseball bat, Prosniewski said. They ran when they heard sirens, the victim’s mother told police.
After police knocked on the door for some 20 minutes, Diaz’s mother brought her son to the door. He told the officers that “it’s all a misunderstanding” over a bag of marijuana and claimed that the victim was actually trying to “rip us off,” Prosniewski said.
He said that both Diaz and Rentas have a history of arrests in other states, while the victim’s only prior brush with the law was a trespassing case.
Lawyers for the pair disputed the existence of those out-of-state records and questioned why, if someone had just had a knife pulled on him, would he return to a crime scene to confront the robber?
“The facts just don’t add up,” argued Patrick O’Malley, representing Diaz.
Patrick Regan, representing Rentas, said his client is a construction worker who supports his girlfriend, their two children and two children she has from a prior relationship.
Diaz’s lawyer argued for his client’s release, saying the young man is staying with his mother while she undergoes treatment for stage 4 cancer.
Judge Matthew Machera set bail at $2,500 for Rentas and $1,500 for Diaz.
A probable cause hearing is scheduled for Feb. 8.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.