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Gun, knife, cellphone figure in Whately road rage incident

WHATELY — A Connecticut man faces several firearms charges after allegedly pointing a gun at another driver in a road rage incident.

James Martin, 36, of Manchester, Conn., pleaded innocent to charges of assault with a handgun, carrying a loaded handgun without a license, unlicensed possession of a handgun, and possession of a double-edged knife Thursday in Greenfield District Court.

The alleged incident occurred around 4 p.m. March 23, on Interstate 91. The charges this week result from a subsequent investigation by the district attorney’s office.

The alleged victim, Robert Vailette of Connecticut, reported that Martin had cut him off in traffic, argued with him via cell phone, then forced him into the breakdown lane and pointed a black pistol at him, according to a report by trooper Gerald Perwak.

Martin was stopped by Perwak and other troopers, who approached his car with their guns drawn, Perwak wrote. Martin was cooperative, and told police he had a loaded Smith & Wesson .380 Bodyguard pistol under the driver’s seat, according to the report. A double-edged knife was also found in the car, Perwak wrote.

Martin told police that Vailette was the aggressor. He said Vailette sped up behind him and began to tailgate his vehicle. When the pickup went to pass him, Martin said the driver tried to force him into the breakdown lane.

Martin called a phone number on the side of Vailette’s pickup to complain about his driving, and got Vailette himself, and the two began to argue, Perwak wrote.

Martin said he told Vailette that he had a gun and didn’t want any trouble, but never displayed or pointed the weapon, Perwak wrote.

Vailette told troopers that Martin had cut in front of him and slammed on his brakes before trying to run him into the breakdown lane and calling his cell phone, telling him to pull over, Perwak wrote.

Once in the breakdown lane, Vailette said Martin pulled up on his left side, pointed a black pistol out of the window, and said, “You’re lucky we’re in Massachusetts and I have a gun, because I can’t get into trouble,” according to the report.

Perwak noted that Vailette’s story kept changing, with the accuser saying Martin pointed the gun at him, then saying that he simply held it up for him to see.

Martin told police he had gone to New Hampshire to sell a trailer for a friend, and tucked his pistol beneath the seat before traveling back through Massachusetts. Martin was found to have valid licenses to carry handguns in Connecticut and New Hampshire, with an expired Massachusetts license to carry, Perwak wrote.

Massachusetts is one of several states that do not honor firearms licenses or permits issued in other states.

Martin is set to return to court July 9 for a pretrial conference.

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