PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Two of the three district attorney candidates, Paul Caccaviello and Andrea Harrington, have taken aim at each other over the last few weeks.
Last week, Caccaviello challenged Harrington's fitness for office, saying she doesn't have the "basic qualifications" needed. Harrington countered by calling Caccaviello, the incumbent, the candidate of "the old guard."
"In my 30 years of working in the office of the district attorney, and handling over 5,000 criminal prosecutions myself, prosecuting multiple murder trials, as well as other cases ranging from minor misdemeanors to serious felonies, I have found the community outreach portion of my role deeply satisfying, and I know it makes a real difference in improving community conditions," Caccaviello wrote in a statement released to the media on July 2. "Given that we have over 6,000 cases active at all times, I have learned that you need to spend a great deal of time on investigations and case preparation for criminal prosecution in court,"
"Andrea Harrington has zero experience in these areas and apparently no knowledge of how the office functions on a daily basis. In particular, I have heard her claim extensive criminal defense litigation experience. She has offered no specifics on that point, even when directly pressed for an answer about her experience."
Caccaviello said many of Harrington's ideas aren't new, but things the office currently does such as having an on-call prosecutor for major cases. He then went after Harrington's suggestion to hire the "best and brightest to do the work."
"If you have not done the work and are going to rely on 'hiring the best and the brightest' to do the work, you are left with the inexperienced leading the inexperienced. Finally, since she has not done the work, and because she appears intent on cleaning house of the existing talented staff, the county would be engaging in a high-risk experiment, with the inexperienced leading the inexperienced."
He claims she has only tried seven cases in Berkshire County, four of which were operating under the influence charges.
Harrington wasted no time to respond, accusing Caccaviello of making "false" claims.
"My opponent, the old guard candidate, Mr. Caccaviello, would like to pick and choose my experience to fit his false narrative by falsely claiming that I have little courtroom experience. In fact, my entire 15 years as an attorney has been in the state, federal, trial, and appellate courts representing clients in criminal and civil litigation matters and is broader and more relevant to lead the district attorney's office into the future," Harrington wrote in response the very next day.
"I have represented innumerable clients in cases ranging from traffic tickets to death row appeals, from sexual harassment to domestic violence restraining orders, and consumer protection class actions suits. I did this while raising two children and building my own law practice. Then, when I realized the limits of working one case at a time, I decided it was time to run for office to change the system that is simply not working for our community."
She said she has no plans to "clean house" as Caccaviello said.
"On the issue of staffing at the DA's office, Mr. Caccaviello has carelessly suggested that I would, in his words, 'clean house.' The truth is I am confident that the dedicated staff of the DA's office today will be excited to be part of a newly invigorated office with a sense of mission and purpose to make Berkshire County a safer community where people from all walks have the opportunity to thrive," Harrington wrote.
"People want to work for an organization that is doing great things for the community. That's what leadership is all about. I will provide the leadership that will allow the staff of the DA's office to fully meet their potential in serving the Berkshire community. "
Caccaviello, she said, is the one lacking the right kind of experience.
"My opponent has spent his entire career in one office doing the same thing. It is his experience that is lacking. I have worked at solving tough problems for people, understanding the challenges of the residents of our region, and how the system is just not working for them. I understand where change is needed. My opponent believes no change is needed," Harrington wrote.
Since starting the race, Harrington has been critical of Caccaviello -- particularly when it comes to the way he was given the job. Former District Attorney David Capeless resigned early to give his longtime first assistant an advantage in the race. Harrington has made numerous statements in opposition to that practice.
Previously, Harrington also criticized Caccaviello and his office for failing to prioritize domestic violence. In June, she wrote that domestic violence "has not been adequately addressed in the Berkshires as the county's domestic violence rates far outpace the rate across Massachusetts."
"One in three homicides in Berkshire County over the past decade were domestic violence murders and our rate of domestic violence restraining orders is 23 percent higher than the rest of the state," Harrington wrote.
"This is unacceptable and requires real leadership from the District Attorney's Office. I will establish a Domestic Violence High Risk Prevention Program to ensure effective, evidence-based prevention measures and determined prosecution of domestic abusers."
Harrington has put forth her idea of establishing a team made up of representatives from law enforcement, probation, dispatchers, the Department of Children and Family, health care professionals, and victim advocates to create a comprehensive and coordinated response. Those will all know the signs of identifying individuals as high-risk and provide services to protect the potential victim.
It would be similar to efforts in Hampden and Franklin counties where, she said, there hasn't been a domestic abuse homicide in five years. Caccaviello pounced on that statement this Wednesday when he released his own statement regarding domestic abuse and cited a current domestic homicide case in Franklin County.
"No community is completely immune from the effects of domestic violence, whether that be Berkshire, Hampden, Franklin or Hampshire Counties. Domestic violence has unquestionably touched all communities in Massachusetts. Sadly, just from 2017 through today, deaths from domestic violence has, in fact, even touched all of the counties in Western Massachusetts. This again includes Hampden County, Berkshire County, and even Franklin and Hampshire Counties, where District Attorney Sullivan and his office are currently prosecuting a person accused of murdering his domestic partner in 2017. This person is awaiting trial," Caccaviello wrote.
Lewis Starkey III is on trial in Franklin County for a suspected homicide last year. Caccaviello said he has "teamed up with District Attorneys Anthony Gulluni and David Sullivan to combat this issue."
"Within the last few months, the three of us, along with Attorney General Maura Healy, were on hand to celebrate the opening of the Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance (MOVA) Western Massachusetts office," Caccaviello wrote.
Again, the incumbent doubled-down on experience, referring to case a decade ago when he was able to get a conviction of first-degree murder.
"It takes real action to prevent even one more senseless death. It also takes real experience in cases such as the one I mentioned above to create and implement new ways of treating Domestic Violence cases. That case helped to inform my work and vision going forward," Caccaviello wrote.
"That is why I have put into motion the creation of a specialized Domestic Violence Unit within the District Attorney's office. This unit will focus on crimes involving domestic violence and animal cruelty. National studies support the presence of what experts call the 'link' between spousal, child, elder, and animal abuse."
His plan is to assign one prosecutor and one victim witness advocate to follow high-risk cases from beginning to end. They will work with victims in safety planning and do thorough reviews of abuse prevention orders. He said that builds on the work the office currently does with probation, law enforcement, and victim advocates.
More recently, Harrington put forth the concept of a veterans court. She said the court would be designed to handled issues with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and military sexual traumas. It would work with community partners to do so.
"We need a Veterans Treatment Court in Berkshire County to fulfill the promise made to our Veterans by the VALOR Act. As District Attorney, I will support effective programming that makes our communities safer and provides an important support system for Veterans dealing with trauma. The same old approach to criminal justice has not been working, and we need to ensure that advocacy for victims, treatment, and rehabilitation plays a larger role in our public safety process -- especially in the DA's office," Harrington wrote.
Caccaviello hasn't yet responded to that.
Meanwhile, Judith Knight has stayed mostly out of the fray between Harrington and Caccaviello. The three are all seeking the Democratic nomination, which will essentially determine the winner, on Sept. 4.
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