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Superior Court Briefs: January 6 - January 10

Staff Reports

Cases heard before Judge Daniel Ford on Monday, January 6.

Kirk Palmer, 49, of Pittsfield had a not guilty plea entered on his behalf on a single count of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute - his second offense.

He was released on $2,500 cash or $25,000 surety bail. The charges stem from the execution of a search warrant at his home on November 21, 2013.

Cases heard before Judge Daniel Ford on Thursday, January 6.

Jonathan Delaney, 30, of Washington had not guilty pleas entered on his behalf on single counts of operating under the influence of alcohol, operating to endanger causing serious bodily injury, operating a motor vehicle while electronic messaging and failure to stay within marked lanes.

Bail was set at $3,500 cash or $35,000 surety. The charges stem from a two vehicle accident in Dalton on November 23, 2013 that injured a 70-year-old woman who was operating the other car in the collision.

Cases heard before Judge Daniel Ford on Friday, January 10.

Christopher Dow, 40, of East Longmeadow was found not guilty of two counts of rape of a child with force.

The incidents allegedly occurred in Williamstown between September 1, 1987 and September 1, 1989. The alleged victim in a male who is now 35 years old.

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Crash Backs Up Traffic on Pittsfield's South Street

By Dan Gigliotti
iBerkshires Correspondent
The vehicle spun and ended up on the lawn of the Veterans Memorial Park.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Traffic was backed up on South Street for about an hour on Thursday after an sport-utility vehicle crashed into a tree.

Police said a man driving a Cadillac Escalade lost control of the vehicle at about 4 p.m. when switching lanes near the Veterans Memorial and struck a tree.

The driver did not suffered any serious injuries, police said, but he was transported to Berkshire Medical Center by ambulance.

"He just lost control. He was in the left lane. Then, he went to go and pass someone in the right lane and, I don't know if he spun or what, but he just lost control and he hit the tree and the light," said Officer Mark Maddalena while surveying the scene.

"I think when he hit the tree it just spun him."

Police kept the road open while attending to the crash but traffic was backed up for about an hour.

Police did not release the name of the driver and the accident is still under investigation.

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North Adams Couple Charged With Marijuana Distribution

Staff Reports
Marijuana and cultivation paraphernalia police say the confiscated from a North Adams home.

Update on Wednesday, Jan. 8, at 3 p.m.: The identification of a third member of the family was incorrect in an earlier version of this article.

"Misidentification by the mother at the scene triggered those charges," said Det. John LeClair. "Now the charges will be amended and brought against the other adult son."

The individual's name will not be released until his identity is confirmed in court documents.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A former high school teacher and the owner of local toy store are facing charges related to growing and selling marijuana after police confiscated nearly $16,000 worth of cultivated weed and 14 plants.

Whitney Suters, 46, and Monique Suters, 44, and a third person to believed to be their son, have been charged with possession with the intent to distribute a Class D substance, manufacture/cultivation of a Class D substance and conspiracy to violate the Controlled Substances Act. Monique Suters operates Persnickety Toys in North Adams.

Whitney Suters is also facing a charge of assault and battery on an officer.

The family was arrested after police responded a 911 hangup redirected from state police in Northampton at about 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 4.

Police Officers Trevor Manning and David Lemieux responded to the East Quincy Street home where they said Monique Suters told them a water pipe had broken and was draining into the home's electrical service.

She asked that the officers attempt to find the shut off but police said when they went into the basement her husband attempted to prevent them from entering a basement room by pushing them, resulting in his arrest and the assault charge.

Whitney Suters said on Wedesday that he received an emergency call from his wife and drove home from Cheshire and entered the basement to find two police officers standing at a closed door. Firefighters were also there.

Officers reportedly encountered "a strong odor" of raw and harvested marijuana as well as other evidence of cultivation and requested detectives. A search warrant received from Northern Berkshire District Court was executed at about 6:40 a.m. on Sunday.

Police said they found two pounds of marijuana, 14-small to medium-height marijuana plants, plastic baggies and three digital scales with marijuana residue on the measuring plates in the basement and that a table was set up for the manicuring and production of marijuana for street-level sales. A small area was set up for the cultivation of marijuana with lighting systems and soil.

Officers said they located two more pounds of marijuana in six separate bags on the second floor in a closet, making a total of four pounds seized.

Police allege that Monique Suters and her son removed marijuana plants from the basement and placed them into black trash bags to avoid their detection and stashed the two pounds of marijuana in the upstairs closet to hide it.

The value of the marijuana seized is $4,000 a pound, said police.

Whitney Suters posted on his Facebook page on Monday that he was preparing for a roller coaster ride.

"I hope my lessons have taught me well enough to keep up the faith and the fight; peace and love to all, the calm before the storm is fading fast. Talk with you all tomorrow if your [sic] still my friend."

The former Drury Spanish teacher may find more support than he thinks. Nearly 300 comments have been posted on the Police Department's Facebook report, many decrying the arrests as a waste of taxpayer money and as "destroying the lives of people."

"We're losing good people and loved ones everyday to herione [sic] and pills but you wanna worry about some stoners," wrote commenter John Vincent Toromino.

Massachusetts, both times by ballot initiatives, has decriminalized possessing small amounts of marijuana and opened the door to medical marijuana dispensaries. Colorado and Washington have legalized (and regulated and taxed) the use of marijuana. A recent poll found that 55 percent of Americans think it should be legalized.

But even as sentiments are changing toward recreational and medicinal use of marijuana, it remains an illegal substance in most states and at the federal level.

"As a LAW Enforcement agency, we do not get to pick and choose which laws we wish to enforce and which we do not," the Police Department posted in response to the torrent of criticism.

Correction: The Persnickety Toys in Pittsfield is no longer associated with the Suters. iBerkshires regrets the error.

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Pittsfield Police Seize Gun, Drugs in Traffic Stop

Staff Reports

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Police say a traffic stop led to the seizure of a loaded firearm and drugs on Tuesday.


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Vermont Principal Charged With Stealing Lunch Money

Staff Reports
Michael W. Heller is charged with embezzling from Readsboro School.

READSBORO, Vt. — The principal of Readsboro Central School has been charged with stealing kids' lunch money.

Michael W. Heller, 40, of Fairfax, turned himself into state police on Monday after an investigation into missing funds at the school. He has been charged with petit larceny, forgery and embezzlement related to the misuse of more than $4,000 in grant funds and $200 in student lunch money.

Windham Southwest Supervisory Union Superintendent Richard McClements contacted state police on Dec. 19 after a financial audit discovered funds were missing. According to state police, the superintendent's office as well as the Readsboro School Board suspected the school's principal was misappropriating funds.

During his two-year tenure, said state police, Heller had applied for and received grant money for school-related items that he used for hotels, meals and shopping.

When questioned by the School Board, Heller submitted self-manufactured lists of transactions in an attempt to cover his illegal activities, said state police.

During the investigation, state police also interviewed the principal's secretary, who reported an ongoing theft of children's lunch money.  Police say they have sufficient evidence that showed Heller was responsible for taking approximately $200 over a period of time, for his own use, instead of handing it in for the students' lunches.

Heller was processed and released on conditions that include an initial appearance date on Jan. 27 in Vermont District Court in Bennington.

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