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Ex-Pine Cobble Head Faces Child-Porn Charges

Staff Reports
David B. Harris

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A city man and former headmaster of Pine Cobble School in Williamstown was arraigned Monday morning in Northern Berkshire District Court on child pornography charges. 

David B. Harris, 66, of Marion Avenue, pleaded not guilty to possession of child pornography and dissemination of child pornography. Bail was set at $2,500 and Harris was released. The case was continued to Aug. 25 for a bindover hearing. More charges are expected to be filed.

Harris left Pine Cobble in 2000 and was hired as head of school for the Cambridge Montessori School, a private school for children from preschool to ninth grade

According to the district attorney's office, the charges resulted from a two-month investigation that culminated in the execution of a search warrant on Sunday at his home.

The North Adams Transcript reported Monday that state police said they found a laptop with links to pornographic sites featuring young boys, and 10 USB drives, at least one of which contained more than 40 videos that appear to be pornographic. 

In a letter posted on the Cambridge school's website, Webster O'Brien, president of the board of trustees, said Harris has been immediately suspended without pay and that the school will commence a search for an interim head of school for the coming year. (The letter can be found here, too.)

While we can honestly state that we have had no reason to suspect this behavior, and we respect individuals' privacy, these charges leave us no option but to immediately suspend David without pay until the Board of Trustees has enough information to make a final decision.

O'Brien said trustees are "fully confident that these issues reside in David's home in North Adams" and have not affected the Cambridge school.

Harris spent his weekends in North Adams and weekdays living in Cambridge.

He has more than 40 years of experience in education and is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. He was headmaster of Pine Cobble from 1989 to 2000; Nicholas M. Edgerton, who replaced him, left earlier this spring. Harris has been headmaster at two other private schools, Upland Country Day School in Kennett Square, Pa., and Eagle Hill School in Lloyd Harbor, N.Y., according to his biography listed on the Cambridge school site. He has sat on numerous educational boards and is a trustee of the Kildonan School in Amenia, N.Y.

Harris founded a consulting firm in 2004 to aid in the placement of gifted or underachieving students to schools that fit their needs but the site, www.schoolsolve.net, does not appear to have fully launched and the domain is for sale. A bio for the site lists Harris at that time as a corporator for Northern Berkshire Health Systems and a member of the North Adams Regional Hospital Ethics Committee; he is no longer listed as a corporator at NBH.

(Update, July 21: Northern Berkshire Healthcare tells us that Harris was a lay member of the Ethics Committee from 1997 to 2002. He is not a corporator and has no current links to the hospital.)

The investigation was conducted by state police detectives assigned to the Berkshire district attorney's office, with assistance from the Massachusetts and New York Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces, state police detectives assigned to the Middlesex district attorney's office and investigators assigned to the New York State attorney general's office.

From the Editor: Because of the sensitive nature of these allegations, we'll be scrutinizing any comments posted here. Any attempts at incitement to violence, smutty remarks and distasteful comments will be removed immediately. Keep it clean, people.

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Woman Pleads Guilty in Fatal Accident

Staff Reports

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — An East Longmeadow woman was sentenced on Monday afternoon in Berkshire Superior Court to prison for her role in a drunken-driving accident two years ago that killed a Becket man.

Catherine A. Rivet, 30, of Parker Street, pleaded guilty to single countes of motor vehicle homicide while under the influence of alcohol and operating to endanger, failure to stay in marked lanes, speeding and possession of marijuana.

Thomas A. Sacchetti Jr., 42, of Prince John Drive, was a passenger in Rivet's 1997 Ford Contour in the early morning hours of Oct. 11, 2008. She was driving at a high rate of speed along Route 20 near the Chester line when she lost control and flipped her car. Sacchetti was pronounced dead at the scene.

Judge John A. Agostini ordered Rivet to serve three to five years in the Massachusetts Correctional Institute at Framingham on the motor vehicle homicide charge, to be served concurrently with six months in House of Correction on the possession charge. She was found responsble for the two traffic charges.

The investigation was conducted by members of the Becket Police Department and accident reconstruction specialists assigned to the Massachusetts State Police.  

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Pittsfield Man Arrested in Llama Killings

Staff Reports

LENOX, Mass. — Lenox Police say they have arrested a Pittsfield man who admits to the killing of two llamas last November at River Valley Farm.

Jared Dinicola, 19, of Marian Street, Pittsfield, was arrested Thursday, July 15, and is being held in the custody of the Lenox Police in lieu $5,000 cash bail until his arraignment later this morning in Central Berkshire District Court. He is being charged with two counts of killing an animal.

He was arrested by Lenox Police Officer Gary Lagarce.

According to a message from Police Chief Stephen E. O'Brien early Friday morning:

On July 14th Officer Lagarce conducted an interview with an individual that had information that Dinicola was the shooter and other persons were present at the time of the shooting.  On the 15th Officer Lagarce conducted 3 more interviews revealing that Dinicola was indeed the shooter. Lastly, also on the 15th, Dinicola was arrested, interviewed, and admitted his involvement in the killings. It appears Dinicola shot one arrow killing both Llamas. Everyone that was interviewed consistently referenced alcohol being involved and that Dinicola was the sole participant in the death of the llamas.

The llamas, Chocolate and Prada, were found shot by bow and arrow by owner Lisa Dachinger on Sunday morning, Nov. 8, 2010, 2009, at the New Lenox Road farm.

The young llamas were part of an extended family at the farm, which now has nine llamas (known as the Bouncers) and several breeds of sheep. Dachinger manages the farm with her three children, including her daughter Jennifer Petricca, who is the livestock manager.

Rewards were posted by radio talk personality Sherman Baldwin and the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen. (Michael Jester, president of the league, wrote in The Berkshire Eagle comment section that the total amount raised by his group is $1,625.) Baldwin, who has since left the area, said the reward money collected would remain uncashed in Pittsfield until the perpetrator was found.

"We are aware of a reward which was posted at the inception of this investigation, but are not involved with the collection of funds or their disbursement and assume that it is only available upon a successful conviction," said O'Brien.

The investigation involved regular collaboration between the Lenox Police, Trooper Brian Berkel of the Massachusetts State Police Detective Unit, the Pittsfield Police, and Massachusetts Environmental Police. 

Updated at 2:10 p.m.:  Lenox Police say Dinicola was arraigned in Pittsfield and had his case transferred to Southern Berkshire District Court in Great Barrington; he is scheduled to a appear there next Friday, July 23.

We also talked to Sherman Baldwin, now hosting a radio talk show in Sarasota, Fla. At his last news conference, Baldwin had said the checks received toward the reward would remain uncashed. He'd collected about $3,600 that included money he'd donated.

But he decided he didn't want to leave any loose ends.

"I notified everybody I was destroying the checks. Someone gave me $50 cash and I spent two days tracking this person down to return it," said Baldwin. "I figured it was kind of a dead issue. I did it all in the spirit of goodness. I was shocked when John Krol contacted me about this morning."

The former TalkBerkshires host says he's not sure what to do at this point about the reward and is mulling some options.

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Fake $10 Bills Buy Charges for North Adams Man

By Patrick Ronan

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A North Adams man was arrested Monday night after allegedly  trying to pass counterfeit money at local businesses throughout the day.

Anthony Mejias, 29, of Hall Street, was arraigned on three counts of uttering counterfeit notes and one count of possession of more than 10 counterfeit notes Tuesday morning at Northern Berkshire District Court. He was also arraigned on four separate charges related to a break-in on Eagle Street that occurred on Sunday.

The additional charges include larceny under the amount of $250, destruction of property over $250, breaking and entering for misdemeanor and attempting to commit a crime (breaking and entering).

On Monday, Mejias was apprehended by police at approximately 9 p.m. on Walnut Street after reports that he tried to use a fake $10 bill at Dairy Queen, located at 465 Curran Memorial Highway. Earlier in the day, at approximately 2:25 p.m., police were alerted that a man tried to pass fake $10 bills at Lopardo's Package Store, located at 8 River St.

According to police reports, Mejias was seen entering Domino's Pizza, at 1 River St., and the Shell gas station, at 458 Curran Memorial Highway, during the day. There has been no confirmation that he tried to use fake money at those locations.

Mejias was held on $5,000 bail Monday night.

Sgt. James Foley said the notes resembled a legitimate $10 bill at first glance, but a closer look revealed they were obviously counterfeit.

"You could tell they were fake by the feel of them and by the look of them," Foley said.

It's unknown how Mejias created the counterfeit currency, according to Foley. The sergeant said there is "no indication" that Mejias successfully used any of his fake bills to complete a local business transaction.

"We get [these reports] every once and a while," Foley said. "They usually make them on a copy machine, and they usually get caught."

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Supreme Surprise for Alleged Robber

Staff Reports

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Workers at Supreme Pizza halted a robbery on Monday night at about 7:30.

A man reportedly entered the pizzeria at the corner of Main and Eagle streets and demanded money. When the clerk refused and called for help from cooks and staff, the man reportedly grabbed the register and tried to run. He was tackled by the workers and arrested within minutes by police.

Robert M. MacDonald, 32, of West Pine Street, Adams, has so far been charged with malicious destruction of property more than $250 (the cash register). The incident is still under investigation.

Update: June 29, 2010

MacDonald was held on $10,000 bail on Monday night. He was charged in Northern Berkshire District Court on Tuesday with armed robbery; assault and battery with a dangerous weapon; assault and batter, and destruction of property more than $250.

The defendant had a folding knife with a 4-inch blade in his pocket, prompting the armed robbery charge, although police say he did not remove it from his pocket. MacDonald reportedly ripped the computerized cash register out, damaging the machine and wiring and hitting the young woman clerk in the process, according to Sgt. James Foley.

He was belligerent when he entered the pizzeria, according to employees, and demanded money from the clerk. When he pulled out the register, he headed for the Main Street entrance but three of the cooks jumped into action and tackled him before he reached the door.

 

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