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Superior Court Briefs: January 15 - January 18
Staff Reports On: 03:53PM / Monday January 21, 2013
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Cases heard before Judge Daniel Ford on Tuesday, January 15.

Michael Pieri, 26, of Becket pleaded guilty to 15 counts of breaking and entering in the nighttime, 15 counts of malicious destruction of personal property, eight counts of larceny in a building, six counts of larceny over $250, four counts of receiving stolen property and single counts of illegal ownership of a firearm, possession of ammunition without a firearm identification card, improper storage of a firearm and common and notorious thief.

He was sentenced to concurrent two to three years at the Massachusetts Correction Institution at Cedar Junction on the breaking and entering, larceny over $250, malicious destruction of personal property, larceny in a building and receiving stolen property charges. He was given a concurrent sentence at the Berkshire County House of Correction on firearm charges and placed on two years probation for the common and notorious thief charge. He was also ordered to pay $13,247 in restitution.

The charges stem from a series of housebreaks in Becket between November 23, 2010 and July 11, 2011.

Andy Rivera, 32, of Pittsfield pleaded guilty to a single count of carrying a dangerous weapon.

He was sentenced to serve 18 months and a two and a half year sentence at the Berkshire County House of Correction and given two years probation.

A single count of disturbing the peace was dismissed by the state. The charges stem from an incident in Pittsfield on November 8, 2011.

Cases heard before Judge Daniel Ford on Wednesday, January 16.

Michael Laprise, 37, of North Adams pleaded guilty to single counts of distribution of oxycodone and conspiracy to violate drug laws.

He was given a one-year suspended sentence at the Berkshire County House of Correction and placed on one year of probation. The incidents occurred in North Adams between November 1, 2010 and November 25, 2010.

Cases heard before Judge Daniel Ford on Thursday, January 17.

Andrew Dupont, 19, of South Egremont pleaded guilty to single counts of indecent assault and battery on a person who has attained age 14 and violation of a harassment order.

He was sentenced to serve 15 months at the Berkshire County House of Correction on the violation of a harassment order and placed on 18 months probation on the other charge.

Two counts of rape and abuse of a child, no force, were dismissed by the state. The assault charge stemmed from an incident in Great Barrington on December 27, 2011 and involved a 15-year-old girl. The harassment order charge was in connection with an incident in Great Barrington on May 22, 2012 involving the same girl.

Michael Bannister, 26, of Adams pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to violate drug laws.

He was ordered to pay a $500 fine. The incident occurred in Adams between November 1, 2010 and November 25, 2010. Two counts of distribution of oxycodone and two counts of drug violation in a school zone were dismissed by the state.

Cases heard before Judge Daniel Ford on Friday, January 18.

Mandi Slick, 29, of North Adams pleaded guilty to a single count of receiving stolen property over $250.

He case was continued without a finding. Slick was allegedly in possession of stolen property in Adams between April 1, 2011 and September 1, 2011.

Robert Smith, 35, of Dalton was found guilty on five counts of rape and abuse of a child, no force, three counts of rape and abuse of a child aggravated by an age difference, two counts of dissemination of obscene matter to a minor and a single count of inducting a minor to engage in sexual intercourse.

He was ordered to be held at the Berkshire County House of Correction without bail until sentencing on Jan. 24.

The incidents involved a girl who is now 17-years-old and a boy who is now 14-years-old in Richmond between January 1, 2004 and June 10, 2010.



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Lee Man Charged For False Drinking Water Tests
By: The Attorney General's Office On: 03:56PM / Thursday January 17, 2013
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The director of a private water testing laboratory in Lee has been indicted in connection with backdating drinking water sample analyses to cover-up misconduct and feign compliance with environmental laws, Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office announced today.

William Enser, Jr., 63, of Lee, was indicted by a Berkshire County Grand Jury on 15 counts of Knowingly Falsifying Reports Submitted to the Department of Environmental Protection and 15 counts of Willfully Making False Reports to the Department of Environmental Protection.

"This defendant allegedly backdated reports sent to officials to make it appear that water samples were tested within the required timeframe when in fact, they were not," Attorney General Martha Coakley said. "As the director of the lab, he was entrusted with ensuring the integrity of the testing and the safety of the water supply. We allege that he neglected those responsibilities by cutting corners and then attempting to cover it up."

In September 2012, the AG's Office began an investigation after the matter was initially investigated and referred by the state Department of Environmental Protection. Enser was the director of Berkshire Enviro-Labs, Inc. in Lee that had previously acted as a certified drinking water lab to provide drinking water testing for private and public water suppliers in western Massachusetts.

"Labs that test drinking water samples must be held to very strict standards to ensure that the health and safety of the public is never compromised," said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell. "This indictment suggests that the lab director purposely skewed the data and undermined the system. MassDEP staff conducting audit, inspection and investigative functions uncovered this fraud and helped to bring this operator to justice."

Authorities allege that at times between 2008 and 2012, Enser falsified the dates of drinking water sample analyses on reports submitted to the MassDEP in an attempt to make it appear that the analyses had been completed within the required holding time for those substances, when in fact, they had not. The analyses were being run for the presence of nitrates and nitrites, substances that can contaminate drinking water. The maximum sample holding time, or the time from sample collection to sample analysis, for these kinds of samples is 48 hours. After 48 hours, the lab analysis is not considered reliable.

Investigation revealed that the dates submitted to the MassDEP differed from those found on the chromatogram, a chart printed from the instrument used to analyze the samples, in an alleged attempt to feign compliance with state environmental laws.

MassDEP conducted additional analysis to determine if the falsification of the data put the public at risk. Based on the prompt closing of the lab, MassDEP’s own additional sampling and close review of the data concerning nitrates and nitrites, the agency does not believe that the water that was the subject of the back-dated samples put the public at risk.

The charges stem from an investigation by the Massachusetts Environmental Strike Force, an interagency unit which is overseen by Coakley, Kimmell and Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan, Jr. The Strike Force comprises prosecutors from the Attorney General's Office, Environmental Police Officers assigned to the Attorney General's Office, and investigators and engineers from the MassDEP who investigate and prosecute crimes that harm or threaten the state's water, air, or land and that pose a significant threat to human health.

A Berkshire County Grand Jury returned indictments against Enser on Wednesday. He will be arraigned in Berkshire Superior Court on Jan. 23. In September 2012, MassDEP's Wall Experiment Station Lab Certification Office, which certifies and audits these kinds of labs, revoked the certification of Enviro-Labs that allowed them to analyze water samples as a result of falsification of data and engaging in deceptive practices. The laboratory has not been conducting analysis on water samples since that time.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Rainer, Chief of the Environmental Crimes Strike Force, and Assistant Attorney General Sara Farnum, of AG Coakley's Environmental Crimes Division, with assistance from the Massachusetts Environmental Police, and the MassDEP Strike Force Director Pamela Talbot and investigators Tim Dame and Joel Rees. MassDEP staff also worked to corroborate the technical findings and to ensure the continued delivery of certified lab services to affected water suppliers. That staff is Marielle Stone, Western Regional Office Director Michael Gorski and Brian Harrington, Jim Gibbs, Deirdre Cabral and Doug Paine. MassDEP lab staff, Anne Marie Allen, John Bardzik and Lisa Touet provided valuable assistance with the lab audit and inspections.



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Pittsfield DPW Building Destroyed By Fire
By Andy McKeever On: 10:48AM / Monday January 14, 2013
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — One firefighter was taken to the hospital during a blaze at the city's highway department building Monday morning.

According to Deputy Chief Bruce Kilmer, the fire began on the upper floors around 9 a.m.

While attempting to knock down the flames, one firefighter sustained a burn on his neck. He was transported to Berkshire Medical Center for Treatment. No other injuries were reported.

As of 11 a.m., the fire was still burning but was mostly contained.

"The major body of the fire is down. We're just working hard to get in there at this time," Kilmer said of the fire that was smoldering in the attic.

"It's just a hard fire to get at," he said.

The West Housatonic Street building poses safety concerns because of its structural deficiencies. Kilmer said he is worried about the roof in some areas.
 
"They were concerned about the structural integrity of this brace wall," Kilmer said pointing one of the building's rear corners. "They're being careful."
 
The double alarm fire led the department to call in 19 off-duty reserves and Lenox and Dalton companies responded with mutual aid, Kilmer said. West Housatonic Street was closed during the fire.
 
"We backfilled myself and 18 other men to operate the reserve apparatus," Kilmer said. "We have two engine companies, a reserve ladder company and a reserve engine company. Lenox ladder company is in on mutual aid and Dalton engine company is in on mutual aid to cover the rest of the city."
 
The top floors of the building were used for storage including the city's Christmas decorations and some 600 plastic recycling bins, according to Mayor Daniel Bianchi, who was on the scene most of Monday morning. The bins "burn like tires," he said.
 
"It had structural issues for years and I think the last chapter has been written," Bianchi said of the building he believes was built in the 1890s.
 
Kilmer said he does not know what caused the fire but he does not suspect foul play. A fire investigator was also on scene.


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Superior Court Briefs: January 7 - January 11
Staff Reports On: 02:21PM / Friday January 11, 2013
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Cases heard before Judge Daniel Ford on Monday, January 7.

Sarah Gordon, 30, of Dalton pleaded guilty to two counts of breaking and entering in the daytime, two counts of larceny over $250, two counts of larceny in a building and a single count of larceny of a controlled substance.

She was placed on two years probation. The charges stem from house breaks in Dalton and Lee on May 29, 2011 and June 3, 2011.

Cases heard before Judge Daniel Ford on Wednesday, January 9.

Brian Podavani, 42, was found guilty by a jury of intimidation of a witness or other person.

He was ordered to be held without bail at the Berkshire County House of Correction pending sentencing on Friday, January 11.

The incident occurred in Pittsfield on September 25, 2011 and involved a 25-year-old man.

Podavini was found not guilty on two counts of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon and a single count of kidnapping.

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

Christopher Peterson, 41, of Pittsfield had not guilty pleas entered on his behalf on single counts of aggravated rape and breaking and entering in the nighttime.

He was ordered to be held at the Berkshire County House of Correction on $100,000 bail.

Peterson allegedly sexually assaulted a 26-year-old woman in Pittsfield after breaking into her home on November 14, 2012.

Cases heard before Judge Daniel Ford on Friday, January 11.

Brian Podavini was sentenced to two to three years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction on a single count of intimidation of a witness.

Podavini was found guilty by a jury on Jan. 9. The incident occurred in Pittsfield on September 25, 2011 and involved a 25-year-old man.



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Pittsfield Woman Injured in Snowmobile Crash
Staff Reports On: 12:50PM / Monday January 07, 2013
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WOODFORD, Vt. — A Pittsfield, Mass., woman was taken to Southern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington after her snowmobile struck a tree on Thursday evening, Jan. 3.

According to state police, Chelsea Hawksley, 27, was traveling west on a Vermont Association Of Snow Travelers (VAST) trail in Woodford when she lost control of her 2012 Ski-doo 600, left the trail and struck a tree.

The crash was reported at about 7 p.m. Hawksley, who had been wearing a helmet, was transported to the hospital by Bennington Rescue with unknown injuries. She was reportedly still at SVMC on Monday. The snowmobile was totaled.



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News Headlines
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These Mysterious Hills: Pittsfield's Downtown Awash in Ghostly Legends
Pittsfield Debates Control Over School Department Budget
Lenox Calling Special Town Meeting
Community Bids Farewell to MCLA's Grant & Canavan
Adams COA Loads Up 'Buckets of Sand' for Local Senior Citizens
BRPC Concludes Train Station Study, Encourages Towns To Stay Involved
2014 Bazaars & Craft Fairs
Berkshire County Arc Launches 2014 Annual Campaign
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