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Future of Eagle Street Storefront Unknown After Arrest

Andy McKeever

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — It is unknown what will happen with the Eagle Street Music storefront in the wake of the proprietor's recent arrest.

Matthew D. Berger, who opened the music store last month, was arrested last week on charges of distribution of oxycodone and oxymorphone. The store has been closed since and landlord Eric Rudd said he does not know what will become of it.

"I'm less than happy about the situation. They have a lease and so far have not contacted me," Rudd, who was out of the country when the arrest was made, said in an e-mail Friday.

Berger pleaded not guilty last Tuesday to five charges of distribution of a Class B drug after a Berkshire County Drug Task Force investigation that began last December. He was released on $5,000 cash bail.

Rudd said Berger's father signed a lease for the storefront and on Monday the store was still stocked. The store sold music equipment and accessories and the rear of the space, in the flatirion building, was to be used for private music lessons.

Berger had been on the police radar well before the store's opening. Police said they were tipped off that he was selling prescription drugs, and performed a series of controlled buys as well as watched him at the store. He was arrested inside the shop last Monday.

He also faces possession charges in New York state after New York State troopers said they found a pill grinder and straws containing hydrocodone and oxycodone.

Berger was not available for comment as of Monday.

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Mayor's Wife Arrested for Shoplifting

Staff Reports

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Michelle Alcombright, wife of North Adams Mayor Richard J. Alcombright, was charged with shoplifting two weeks ago in Florida.

Alcombright, 53, was arrested and charged with probable cause of retail theft of more than $300 on Tuesday, March 29, at a shopping plaza in Ruskin, Fla., just outside of Tampa.

According to a report by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, the arrest was made at about 7 p.m. The report doesn't state where the arrest took place other than 3846 Sun City Boulevard, the address of the plaza, which includes a Walmart Supercenter, a Beall's Department Store and a pet supermarket.

She was booked at 10:17 that night and was held until 5 p.m. the next day, when a $2,000 surety bond was posted for her release.

Word of her arrest was posted liberally on the Topix comments section over the weekend and emailed to iBerkshires. Her arrest was one of the top most viewed Sunday on the Tampa page of Whosarrested.com. There had been rumors over the past year of a similar incident at a local Walmart but no facts.

Michelle Alcombright was not at the mayor's re-election launch on Friday and the following reception was hosted by his daughter. We have asked the mayor for a statement.

Update: Mayor Alcombright released this statement on Monday, April 11, 2011, shortly after noon. We are running it in its entirety.

My wife, Michelle, is humiliated, ashamed and hurting deeply, and our entire family is saddened as a result of this recent situation. With that said, we are no different from any other family that struggle with personal issues.

The past two years have been extremely difficult for my wife as she has faced crippling anxiety, severe depression and physical health problems and she is currently in an outpatient program helping her deal with her issues. My interests are embedded in making sure she gets the necessary care to make her well and to become physically and emotionally healthy once again. 

I ask the community to allow us to handle this as it should be handled ... as a personal family matter. I will deal with family and personal issues as would any other husband and father.

I will, as I have done for the past 15 months, continue to fulfill my elected responsibilities as mayor and fully hope to continue as I announced last week, to be in this position for two more years.

This will be my only comment on the situation.

Richard J. Alcombright

 

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Pittsfield Police Report Phone Scam

Pittsfield Police Department

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Pittsfield Police Department would like to advise the public of the recurrence of a common phone scam. This phone scam is being conducted by unknown individuals believed to be in the United States and Overseas. The individuals involved in this scam are calling residences and pretending to be relatives in need of money.

One of the most recent victims of this scam reported sending $3,200 to an individual, who they believed to be their grandson, in Spain. It is possible that the individuals involved in this scam are obtaining personal information about their victims' families from social media sites. After gathering information from the Internet, the individuals contact family members, who are mostly elderly, and pretend to be a relative. The relative will claim to be in trouble and in need of money. The caller instructs the victim to wire money to them.

If any residents receive phone calls of this nature, please attempt to verify the identity and whereabouts of the family member before offering financial assistance. If you have suffered a financial loss due to this type of crime please contact the Pittsfield Police Department at 413-448-9700 and file a report. 

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Lanesborough Man Charged With Child Pornography

Andy McKeever

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A Lanesborough man was charged with his second child pornography offense.

Jermaine L. Lane, 35, of Balance Rock Road had not guilty pleas entered in Berkshire Superior Court Wednesday on four counts of possession of visual material of a child depicted in sexual conduct - his second offense.

Lane is being held at the Berkshire County House of Correction on $50,000 bail as a result of allegedly having images of child pornography on his cell phone on Jan. 31. The investigation was conducted by state police detectives assigned to the District Attorney’s Office.

Lane had previously pleaded guilty to 39 counts of possession of child pornography in 2008 and he was given suspended sentences at the Berkshire County House of Correct and placed on three-years probation. He was also told to attend sex-offender counseling and wear a GPS monitor.

Those charges stemmed from having illicit images on his computer between 2004 and 2006 while he lived in Pittsfield.

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Wynn: No Other Officers Implicated In Steroid Probe

Staff Reports

Police Chief Michael Wynn

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — No other police personnel are being investigated for using steroids and the one officer admitting to using the drugs has been given "the most severe discipline" that could be imposed, according to Police Chief Michael Wynn.

Wynn addressed "rumor, innuendo and speculation" surrounding the findings of steroid use by Officer David Kirchner with a statement released late Wednesday afternoon.

The response comes nearly three weeks after the allegations, which include state Trooper Daniel Gale of the Russell barracks in Hampden County, became public and a week after Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless released his own statement on the matter.

"Where there is one, there must be others" has been the train of comments and postings in the local blogosphere (PlanetValenti has been ground zero for following the incident.). Wynn says that's not the case but leaves wiggle room in his statement and refers to the investigation as "ongoing":

"Finally, in regard to this matter, there is no indication from the ongoing investigation, that any other member of the Pittsfield Police Department is implicated in this probe. Should that prove to be the case at some point in the future, each of those potential allegations will be handled with the same intensity and thoroughness as this one."

Kirchner, who has been suspended, demoted and removed from the Berkshire County Drug Task Force, admitted to the allegations and accepted responsibility, said Wynn.

"This discipline (suspension coupled with loss of assignment), is the most severe discipline that I can impose as a chief of police, given the nature of the allegations and Officer Kirchner's lack of prior disciplinary findings," the police chief writes.

Wynn said he was "professionally" disappointed in Kirchner's actions and describes him as a "hard-working, dedicated, and proven member" who "accepted difficult and dangerous assignments to protect our community."

Kirchner, he notes, has not been charged with anything and there was limited evidence from the internal probel. The disciplinary actions, the chief states, "it exceeds the punishment that most nonlaw enforcement personnel would receive under similar circumstances."

The allegations apparently arose from a U.S. Postal Service investigation. The IA probe found electronic communications evidence that detailed Kirchner's drug preferences; an unidentified person told investigators that Kirchner had purchased the drugs for personal use.

Wynn's statement is below:


April 6, 2011

For the past several weeks, the Pittsfield Police Department has been the subject of a variety of stories fueled by rumor, innuendo and speculation. Despite the department's efforts to remain above the sensationalism by responding only to those stories and those inquiries that we could address with fact, the speculation has continued. I believe that the men and women of the Pittsfield Police Department deserve to have an official response made for the record.

First, I would like to point out that during this entire course of events, the city and Police Department have responded to every media request as quickly and completely as possible. While the timing and content of some of these releases has drawn criticism, we are constrained by law in what information we can release and when we can release it.

Whenever some members of an organization are cast in an unflattering light, it is easy to paint the entire organization with the same, wide brush. Such gross generalizations are unfortunate and unfair. 

The Pittsfield Police Department consists of approximately 120 hard-working and dedicated professionals, who provide high-quality police services to the city of Pittsfield, every minute of every day and every day of every year. In addition to the high-caliber police services that our personnel provide, we are also extremely involved in the community. Department members regularly give of their own time to improve our community. We are coaches, teachers, mentors, scoutmasters, and board members. We are active in our children's schools and in our churches. We provide the same energy and passion to our off-duty activities as we do to our professional performance.

The public should be assured that sworn officers of the Pittsfield Police are held to an even higher standard than the people they serve and protect. We have one of the most robust Internal Affairs Policies of any local law enforcement agency. Decisions regarding matters of internal discipline are evaluated against several factors including an evaluation of both criminal and civil service law, an analysis of the department's rules and regulations and policies and procedures, cases of prior discipline against the officer and findings for similar cases in the past.

While I am professionally disappointed by the recent actions of Officer David Kirchner, I think that it is important to point out that prior to this incident, Officer Kirchner has enjoyed a reputation as a hard-working, dedicated, and proven member of both the Department and the Berkshire County Drug Task Force. He has consistently accepted difficult and dangerous assignments to protect our community, been commended and decorated for his performance on numerous occasions and is committed to his family and our community.

Immediately upon being informed of the allegations against Officer Kirchner, the department took steps to confront the allegations and contain the impact of the allegations on current operations. Officer Kirchner was relieved of his duties and informed that he was the subject of an administrative investigation. When confronted with the allegations, Officer Kirchner accepted responsibility for his actions, volunteered to accept appropriate discipline, and waived his due process rights to appeal the discipline imposed.

Based on the information provided by the investigating agency, I conferred with members of the command staff and the department's labor attorney and I imposed appropriate discipline on Officer Kirchner.  This discipline (suspension coupled with loss of assignment), is the most severe discipline that I can impose as a chief of police, given the nature of the allegations and Officer Kirchner's lack of prior disciplinary findings.

This punishment was based on the mere allegation of wrong-doing and a limited amount of physical evidence. It exceeds the punishment that most nonlaw enforcement personnel would receive under similar circumstances. Officer Kirchner has not been charged in connection with any criminal investigation, yet has already been administratively disciplined. This certainly does not indicate any preferential treatment for department personnel.

Finally, in regard to this matter, there is no indication from the ongoing investigation, that any other member of the Pittsfield Police Department is implicated in this probe. Should that prove to be the case at some point in the future, each of those potential allegations will be handled with the same intensity and thoroughness as this one.

The men and women of the Pittsfield Police Department continue to provide quality, professional police services to the residents of our city and beyond. We will continue to do so during these trying times and after they are behind us. As the department's chief of police, I stand behind our personnel and their performance. In those rare instances that our people's performance is less than ideal, we have a history of investigating those instances fully and disciplining appropriately. We will continue to do so in each and every case brought to our attention.

Sincerely,

Michael J. Wynn
Chief of Police

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