Jury Finds Former School Counselor Not Guilty of Rape
Staff Reports On: 03:33PM / Tuesday January 28, 2014
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A jury has acquitted a former school counselor of rape and indecent assault charges.
Scott M. Muir, 38, of Stockbridge was found not guilty after 2 1/2 hours of deliberation in Berkshire Superior Court on Tuesday of five counts of rape of a child with force and 14 counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14.
The charges date back to when he was a school counselor at the Stockbridge Plain School between 2003 and 2006. Five girls, between the ages of 8 and 10, claimed to have been sexually assaulted by Muir.
Muir was charged with the crimes in April of 2012. At the time of the charges, he held municipal jobs including Stockbridge's emergency management director and facilities manager, and was a member of the Board of Health and an emergency medical technician with the Lee Volunteer Ambulance Service.
Muir pleaded not guilty to all counts. In the trial that began last week, several of the alleged victims, now in their late teens, testified that Muir had fondled them. However, an internal investigation could substantiate the complaints made at the time.
The investigation was conducted by state police detectives assigned to the district attorney's office.
Pittsfield Firefighters Snuff Duplex Blaze
By Andy McKeever On: 04:30PM / Thursday January 23, 2014
Firefighters quickly snuffed out the fire in the outside of the building.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Firefighters snuffed out a two-alarm fire on Thursday afternoon as temperature hovered in the low teens.
The blaze began at about 3:15 p.m. in the basement of 38-40 McArthur St., off Onota Street, when the owner of the duplex attempted to fix water pipes using a blowtorch, according to Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski.
The wall caught fire and traveled up to the back of the exterior of the building on the 38 side.
"On arrival, our crews found heavy fire and smoke at the back of the building," said Czerwinski. "It really stayed on the outside and not on the inside. ... The fire really progressed on the outside to to the eaves."
The owner, who lives on the 40 side, and a woman, who lives on the 38 side, both fled the blaze. Czerwinski said he was not sure how many people lived in the duplex but only those two were home.
Czerwinski added that the smoke damage would likely displace one of the families for a time, while the owner's side did not suffer damage. Two pets were also unharmed in the blaze.
No one was injured although a firefighter who took a took a tumble on the icy surface refused treatment.
"The guys make quick work of it," said Czerwinski.
All the equipment and about 18 firefighters responded, in part because of the frigid temperatures. Mayor Daniel Bianchi was also at the scene.
Motor Vehicle Flips on Springside in Pittsfield
On: 07:59PM / Wednesday January 15, 2014
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A car flipped over on Springside Avenue at the entrance to Rotary Playground at Springside Park at about 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning.
Reader Karla Neff submitted some pictures, taken from a distance, that show police, fire and ambulance personnel at the scene.
The road was blocked for a short time to remove the driver and vehicle. The scene was clean when our reporter arrived. No further information was immediately available.
Pittsfield Crash Victims Identified; Cause Under Investigation
Staff Reports On: 10:40AM / Wednesday January 15, 2014
Police identified the two men who died in the crash at Pittsfield High School on Tuesday.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Police say both men involved in the crash at Pittsfield High School on Tuesday afternoon have died.
Tariq Sally, 34, and Ernest Duck Jr., 37, have both died from injuries incurred in the crash.
Police say they are still investigating the circumstances surrounding the crash. All possible causes — including mechanical, medical or other — are being explored.
Numerous witnesses have given police information regarding erratic operation of the vehicle prior to the accident; anyone wishing to provide additional information are asked to contact Officer Marc Maddalena or Sgt. Mark Trapani.
The white 2013 white Nissan Altima with Connecticut plates soared through the intersection of Second Street and East Street, hit curbing in front of the high school and launched into the air — landing against a wall in the school's front yard.
Both men were rushed to Berkshire Medical Center and one was pronounced dead shortly after while the other was in a "life-threatening" condition.
They were identified as Pittsfield residents. Duck, according to his Facebook page, had attended Berkshire Community College and was engaged.
Car Crashes Into Pittsfield High School; One Killed
Staff Reports On: 03:34PM / Tuesday January 14, 2014
A car crashed into Pittsfield High School on Tuesday afternoon after speeding across the intersection from Second Street.
Update on Jan. 15: Police report both occupants of the car have died. They have been identified as Tariq Sally, 34, and Ernest Duck Jr., 37.
Editor's note: This article has been updated with information from Sgt. Trapani and Superintendent McCandless at 5:51 p.m. and extraneous information removed.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A white car reportedly roared out of Second Street and across East Street just before 3 p.m., hitting the curb and slamming into the wall in front Pittsfield High School.
One occupant of the vehicle has died as a result of his injuries, according to police, who have not released any names.
Police Sgt. Mark Trapani said the accident occurred at about 2:49 p.m. He said he did not have any further information on the occupants other than that there were two men and both were from Pittsfield.
Police were aware of reports the car had been speeding along Second Street, blowing through red lights and stop signs, he said, but it was not known where they were coming from.
Witnesses reported seeing the car traveling at a high rate of speed down Second Street toward the school. Unconfirmed reports have put the speed at 80 to 100 mph.
Trapani said police had "only suspicions" about what caused the crash, adding there were "no other contributing factors besides the operation of this one car at this point." He did say, in response to a question, that any possible medical factors would be investigated.
Principal Matthew Bishop said he was in the school lobby with others when they heard the crash and saw smoke. Some students were on the steps of the school at the time of the accident, he said, but they were unharmed. The high school lets out at about 2:20 p.m.
"From 2 to 2:20, this is lined with pedestrians, students and pickup cars — parents waiting to pick up students from school — so yes, this could have been much, much worse," said Trapani.
Brandon Price, head of the math department, was in his room on the second floor of the building, across the lawn from where the incident took place. It was hot in his classroom, so the windows were open as he was with a group of students partaking in after-school help. He and his students heard a loud noise and rushed to the window.
"I was in my room, which is just right across the way from the car," he said. "That's scary."
"I was sitting there with a bunch of kids. I have all the windows open. We hear a really loud, like a thud, so we all get towards the window. When we look out the window, literally, the car is elevated off the ground, the tires are in the air and there's debris everywhere."
"Literally, kids were crying as soon as it happened. It was the scariest sound you've ever heard."
"I told them to close the windows, because you could already, instantly smell gas," he said. "I told them to go to the library, then I went downstairs. Actually, I called 9-1-1 before I left."
Superintendent Jason McCandless said staff and faculty have been working with the students who were in the school for after-school programs, including a well-attended 21st Century School program.
"We got kids to a place where we knew it was safe after understanding initially what actually happened and worked with several counseling staff," he said. "We do believe there were students who were here and who did witness it through windows or from being on the sidewalk."
Counselors who had been home returned to the school to meet with teens and their parents have been notified that their children may have been witness to a traumatic event.
"We have counseling staff up on site now and we'll have counseling staff, extra counseling staff, for tomorrow for students and for faculty who may be traumatized by what happened here," he said, adding "It's just devastating the thought if the timing had been different, had it been a day when students were congregating."
The school has also canceled tonight's boys' basketball game at home against Lee.
Both sides of East Street were closed to traffic for about a half-hour between Appleton and Bartlett avenues; the westbound lanes were reopened just after 3:30 p.m. but the eastbound was reduced to one lane at the time of this report.
"Our preliminary investigation, according to witnesses, is they came off of Second St., came across [East St.] ... ," said Police Capt. David Granger at the scene, pointing to the tree near the sidewalk where the car hit before landing on the school lawn.
"There were students there, the school was open. It was after school. There were students out front here," he said. "We're in the process of talking to school administrators and the students that were in the school. Some of them were eyewitnesses."
Granger said the preliminary investigation indicated that only two men were in the car.
"No civilians got hurt. No other people got hurt out here on the scene, but there were, what appeared to be, two males in the car and they've been taken to Berkshire Medical Center."
The crash prompted a full-scale response, including at one point four firetrucks, two ambulances and at least eight police vehicles. Initial reports were that a vehicle had crashed into the school with multiple people trapped.