Tuesday, November 06, 2018

A conversation in December about Berkshire’s cities

Sunday, October 28, 2018

‘Death with Dignity’ discussion on Tuesday

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

THREE LETTERS: About the reporting of alleged sexual-abuse cases at Williams College | Meg Bossong, John Pucci, Paul Caccaviello

UPDATE, OCT. 31 -- WAMC'S Josh Landes has posted a detailed story about this.

These three letters were published in The Berkshire Eagle on the dates and at the URLs provided. They are reproduced here in a exercise of copyright fair use for non-profit analysis and comment and to promote public discourse. The first letter refers to a debate which occurred July 31 in Williamstown. You can go back and review audio of that debate or watch WilliNet's archived VIDEO.

Some reporting of the nuances with sexual-assault handling was posted to iBerkshires on Sept. 2 of 2014 -- four years ago.


Letter: Williams College wronged by Caccaviello claim

Posted Friday, August 3, 2018 5:45 pm

To the editor:

During the Berkshire County district attorney forum on July 31, the candidates for DA were asked about two campus sexual assault bills pending in the Legislature.

In his response, Paul Caccaviello chose to describe the complex problem of campus sexual assault by pointing to Williams College, specifically, for failing to report incidents of sexual violence to the criminal legal system and to advocate for the legal rights of student survivors of intimate violence.

Mr. Caccaviello's assertions are patently and categorically false. His own predecessor, David Capeless, refuted this point in a lengthy interview with iBerkshires in 2014, saying "My understanding from talking to [Williamstown Police] Chief [Kyle] Johnson is that when [Williams] gets incidents, they report it to the police. Even when the victim doesn't want to talk to the police, they tell the police just so they know. Unfortunately, there's been a misunderstanding of what colleges are doing. It's too easy to think that they have every reason to suppress the idea that there are assaults on their campus. But they're not suppressing the information."

To be effective in advocating on behalf of crime victims, advocates — whether on campus, in community-based agencies like the Elizabeth Freeman Center, or in the DA's own victim-witness advocacy program — have to help victims understand their options, and the benefits and barriers to accessing them. Williams presents students with all their legal and disciplinary options, and supports them in accessing those, either directly or via connection with off-campus resources.

Survivors of violence often weigh whether they can endure the publicity and pain of a criminal proceeding. That self-searching, at the same time they are reacting to and trying to begin their recovery from trauma, has to include a consideration of whether a criminal complaint is likely to lead to a conviction.

The DA's office makes the final choice about whether to pursue prosecution in cases of sexual violence that occur in Berkshire County. This includes cases affecting students of the four colleges located here. Mr. Caccaviello needs to tell the voters of our county how many cases of peer-to-peer, alcohol-involved sexual assault and rape his office has chosen to bring to trial, and how many cases they have pleaded out to lesser, non-sexual offenses or agreed to continue without a finding.

With that information, the voters of Berkshire County can decide on Sept. 4 whose advocacy has come up short.

Meg Bossong,

The writer is the director of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response at Williams College.


Caccaviello failed to respond to Williams

Posted Thursday, August 30, 2018 4:15 pm
To the editor:

I write in regard to the Berkshire district attorney campaign. I have been a trial lawyer for 38 years. I was a federal prosecutor for 10 years, and have practiced criminal law in Berkshire County and other counties across Massachusetts.

Throughout the campaign, candidate Paul Caccaviello has claimed that his long "experience" in the DA's office makes him the best candidate.

I beg to differ, but first some facts. The Clery Act is a federal law requiring colleges to report on-campus crime statistics to the U.S. Department of Education. Williams College made its most recent Clery Act disclosure in 2017 covering the years 2014-2016. For those three years, Williams identified 41 credible complaints of rape that it had reported to its campus security office and the Williamstown Police Department. The Berkshire district attorney had the responsibility to review these cases and prosecute those that could be proven in court. My research reveals that only one of these 47 cases has been prosecuted.

These shocking statistics demand an explanation from candidate Caccaviello. At a recent public forum in Williamstown, Caccaviello blamed Williams College, claiming it had failed to report them to law enforcement and to advocate for the rights of student survivors. But according to the Williams Clery Act Reports, all the data about this sexual violence was reported to the Williamstown Police Department and must have been reviewed by the DA's Office. Moreover, all this Clery Act information for 2014-2016 has been publicly available online to Caccaviello's Office for quite some time.

In an August 3 letter to The Eagle, Meg Bossong, the director of sexual assault prevention at Williams, wrote that Caccaviello's claims at the Williamstown Forum were "categorically false." Ms. Bossong asked that Caccaviello provide the public with statistics detailing the number of these kinds of rape cases his office has prosecuted, and their resolution. Caccaviello has failed to do so.

Voters are entitled to this information and a truthful explanation for the DA's failure to prosecute more of these cases. They are also part of Caccaviello's "experience" for which he is accountable.

Andrea Harrington has made a public commitment to review the many rape cases Caccaviello's Office has failed to bring. This has to be done to restore credibility and common decency to that office. She is the only candidate who will bring this kind of accountability to the Berkshire DA's office.

John Pucci,


Letter: Politics behind attack on DA's Williams College probe

Posted Wednesday, October 24, 2018 4:27 pm

To the editor:

This letter is in response to a letter to the editor of The Berkshire Eagle in August of this year. The letter, authored by John Pucci, a donor to my opponent, claimed that the Berkshire district attorney failed to investigate or prosecute over 40 cases of sexual assault reported by Williams College between 2014 and 2016.

The allegations in this letter were extremely disturbing as they are completely contrary to the mission of the office and goal of protecting victims. I contacted both Williams College and the Williamstown Police Department to begin an inquiry into the matter and found that Mr. Pucci's claims were not only without merit, but misleading, ill-informed, and insensitive to victims.

What I discovered was that the majority of the information provided by Williams College to the Williamstown Police Department did not contain sufficient data to permit a thorough investigation by law enforcement. It found that although Mr. Pucci claimed that "all the data about this sexual violence was reported [by the college] to the Williamstown Police Department," in fact, two-thirds of the incidents reported to the police failed to identify either the victim or the alleged perpetrator of the crime.

Williamstown Police Chief Kyle Johnson discovered an additional 18 cases of sexual assault were never even reported to his department and, therefore, could not be referred to the district attorney's office for further investigation or prosecution. Mr. Pucci's claim that "all the data" about these crimes was shared with the local

police and the Berkshire district attorney's office is simply not true.

When the police department timely requested the names of the parties involved in these cases to further their own investigation, Williams College did not provide the names and protected the confidentiality of the victims and alleged perpetrators. The college was well within its discretion not to reveal the names of the parties to these incidents. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 does not require colleges and universities to report allegations of sexual violence to law enforcement, it only requires schools to investigate and address sexual violence on campus.

Title IX also permits, and even encourages, schools to maintain students' confidentiality. The college is not required to provide to the public or to the district attorney any additional information about these incidents.

In fact, the Annual Security and Fire Safety Report informs students that "all reported crimes will be investigated by the college and may become a matter of public record only if subpoenaed by law enforcement."

We in the DA's office fully respect the rights of victims who chose to remain anonymous and not move forward with an investigation and we understand that the college also has an obligation to provide a safe atmosphere for its students to speak freely. What is disappointing, and irresponsible, is that Mr. Pucci chose to blame the Berkshire district attorney's office for the nature of Williams College's public disclosures of sexual violence. Politicizing this issue was not " just politics" — it is just wrong.

It is important to continue to work with Williams College and Williamstown Police Department to assist in investigations and support all victims of sexual assault. This is an issue that colleges across the country are facing and we are committed to providing all of the necessary resources to not just Williams College but all college campuses in Berkshire County to address the problem.

Paul Caccaviello,

The writer is Berkshire district attorney and is running as a write-in candidate for election on Nov. 6.


(Author: Bill Densmore)

1) Does Williams take the position that it won't provide names of victims or alleged assailants except in response to subpoena? Has the Williamstown PD ever asked that subpoenas be issued? Why or why not?

2) More detail is needed on the apparently conflicting roles of colleges under Title IX vs. to law-enforcement to report alleged assaults on campus in detail sufficient to permit an informed judgement about prosecution.  What does WIlliams think? What do MCLA, Simons Rock, etc. think?

3) Caccaviello gives no indication of why or whether he would or would not press Williams for greater disclosure, or why he would not sua sponte request issuance of subpoenas to determine the need for prosecution or discretion.

4) What does Harrington think of all this?  Is this all politics, or something deeper? 

Friday, October 12, 2018

Fwd: "An impolite arrogant woman"

Bill Densmore
Williamstown, Mass. USA
mobile: 617-448-6600

Begin forwarded message:

From: Elizabeth Warren <info@elizabethwarren.com>
Date: October 11, 2018 at 10:27:24 PM EDT
To: William Densmore <wpdensmore@gmail.com>
Subject: "An impolite arrogant woman"
Reply-To: info@elizabethwarren.com

Elizabeth Warren for Senate 2018
Elizabeth Warren for Senate 2018


You probably remember: Right after Donald Trump became President, one of his first orders of business was launching an illegal, bigoted Muslim ban.

We all felt powerless at the time – Republicans had just won the White House and both branches of Congress – but my staff and I wanted to do something about it. So we tried to get answers from the Department of Homeland Security about their policy of illegally detaining Massachusetts residents (and their family members) at Boston Logan Airport.

There was only one problem: Trump's new Director of Homeland Security – John Kelly – wouldn't return our calls and emails. My staff emailed back and forth with his staff, but we couldn't get them to set up a call or answer our questions.

When I finally did get on the phone with John Kelly, I asked if he had an office number that I could use in the future to get in touch more quickly. He brushed me off, directing me to the main line listed on the Department of Homeland Security's website (really). Even worse, he bizarrely insisted that I'd made the whole thing up and we'd never tried to reach him in the first place. I happened to be looking at all the emails between his staff and my staff when he said this, so I started reading them to him. He accused me again of making it all up.

My policy staffers were in the room. And to this day, I've never seen so many jaws drop in unison. It was one of the first times we saw "alternative facts" so up close and personal. And one of the first times we saw how truly dysfunctional the executive branch had become - and how quickly.

So what happened next? You guessed it – I persisted. I asked again for his number. He hemmed and hawwed, and he again tried to give me the Department's main line. Let's just say that's when the conversation really started getting awkward – and that I persisted longer than he did. Eventually, he didn't just give me his office number – he gave me his cell number.

Before we got off the phone, I gave him something back for his troubles – a message on behalf of the American people that it was time to follow the court order and allow people stranded abroad to board planes into Logan International Airport.

Was I tough on John Kelly in that phone call? You bet I was. And apparently he didn't like it. According to an email he wrote about our conversation just afterwards, which was just released, he called me "an impolite arrogant woman":

What an impolite arrogant woman. She immediately began insulting our people accusing them of not following the court order, insulting and abusive behavior towards those covered by the pause, blah blah blah.

"Blah blah blah." That's all he had to say when he was called out for breaking the law and destroying lives. And I don't know about John Kelly – but there are some men who can only hear "blah blah blah" whenever a woman's talking. One of his aides wrote back, "Too bad Senate Majority Leader McConnell couldn't order her to be quiet again!"

Clever. Well, Mitch McConnell can't shut me up – and neither can John Kelly. (He can't even get Donald Trump off Twitter, and as far as I can tell, that was his main job description when he took on the role of White House Chief of Staff).

It's been a long two years since Donald Trump became President. But the night the Muslim ban started will be seared in my brain forever. That night, I went to Logan Airport to join the protest. It was an incredible sight – a sea of people rushing to East Boston to make their voices heard. There's nothing impolite about people's right to speak out and hold their government accountable. And sometimes, people are right to be angry.

It's been a long two years, but November 6th, we'll have another chance to make our voices heard and fight back against Donald Trump, John Kelly, and all the bigoted creeps still strutting and smirking around 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Tick tock, Donald. But we aren't out of the woods yet. Please chip in now to support our re-election campaign and help make sure Democrats win BIG across the country.

Thanks for being a part of this,


P.S. My phone call with John Kelly happened one day after Mitch McConnell threw me off the Senate floor for reading Mrs. King's letter about Jeff Sessions. Nevertheless, we persist – and you can keep us in this fight by chipping in now.



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Saturday, September 08, 2018

New Michael Moore movie “Fahrenheit 11/9” in theaters Sept. 21

Michael Moore, the filmmaker, writes:

"Donald J. Trump did not just fall from the sky. His rise to the presidency was not an aberration and should not have come as a shock. It was the logical end result of a long, downward spiral in America that culminated in one of our most loathsome citizens conquering our most powerful political office. One of our most deceptive minds commanding the bully pulpit. One of our most fraudulent hucksters armed with the powers of the presidency to protect him.

"How did this happen?! What did we do to deserve this?!

"Well, where shall I begin ...

"For the past several months, I've been working on my next film, "Fahrenheit 11/9," and I'm finally ready to share it with the world.

"It is already being talked about as one of the most anticipated films of the fall.

"With the film, I set out to answer the two questions that have been haunting most Americans since that fateful morning on 11/9/2016, when, at 2:29 a.m., the Associated Press officially called the election for Donald J. Trump: How the f**ck did we get here and, most importantly, how the f**ck do we get out of it?

"This is not a film telling you what a jerk Trump is, or what an buffoon Trump is, or what a liar Trump is. You already know that. Everybody already knows that, except for your conservative brother-in-law, whose mind you'll never be able to change. I wouldn't waste your time or my time making the kind of film that would convince him. And with all due respect to your conservative brother-in-law, we don't need him. We're the majority in this country, he's the minority; he knows it, and that's why he's so mad!

"Instead, my team and I were on a mission to tell a much more important story. It's a story about hope ... and what comes after it. It's a story about deception and betrayal. It's a story about what happens to people when they've hit rock bottom. It's a story about who we are as a people and what it means to be an American in the era of Trump. Ultimately, it's a story about where we might be heading as a society.

"My team and I have moved heaven and earth to make sure we delivered this film to you in time to have an impact in this year's midterm elections. I'm excited to announce to you that "Fahrenheit 11/9" will open in more movie theaters than any of my previous films; it will be in over 1,500 theaters across America! And I know that MoveOn members like you are moving heaven and earth to win this election. "

"I've made a film that was meant to be seen on a big screen, in a dark theater, filled with a hundred strangers. My hope is that you will experience the magic of cinema the way that it was meant to be experienced and that you will be moved and entertained by it. But that you also will be inspired to act."

–Michael Moore  

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Berkshire Eagle publisher/president invites public to talk at BrewHaHa! on Friday 9 a.m.-10 a.m.

click to enlarge
NORTH ADAMS -- Frederic Rutberg, president/publisher and co-owner of The Berkshire Eagle is bringing one in a series of "coffee and conversation" meetings with the public to the new location of BrewHaHa! cafe/restaurant at 437 West Main St., in North Adams on Friday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.  It's a chance for readers -- print and Internet -- to provide suggestions and constructive feedback on the news organization's efforts.

For two decades The Eagle and its sister papers in Brattleboro, Bennington and Manchester, Vt., were owned by a Denver-based chain which gradually reduced the size of its newsroom, closed The Transcript and The Advocate weekly and raised subscription rates.  In May 2016, four businessmen -- three of them with homes in the Berkshires, purchased the papers for a undisclosed sum and have adding reporters, editors, graphic artists and other support staff in Pittsfield with the goal of creating "the finest community newspaper group in America."

Rutberg, a retired state district-court judge who lives in Stockbridge, has been operational leader of the new owners of New England Newspaper Inc. (NENI).  Shortly after the ownership change, Rutberg inaugurated a circuit-riding approach to checking in with readers, appearing at coffee shops and other venues throughout the Berkshires. Friday's visit is at least the third in northern Berkshire County.

"Pull up a chair, grab a cup of coffee and get to know our president and publlisher, editor and other key managers," says a invitational advertisement which appeared in an edition of last week's paper. "Tell us about your neighborhood, ask us questions, share your concenrs, or stop in just to chat. The coffee is free, the conversatoin is informal and information . . . . "

Saturday, July 28, 2018

TUESDAY: Public invited to attend or email questions to Williamstown forum in hot district-attorney three-way race

WILLIAMSTOWN --  On Tuesday, July 31, the League of Women Voters of Williamstown is sponsoring a forum for the three candidates running for the Democratic nomination for Berkshire District Attorney.

As there is no Republican candidate, the race will be decided at the state primary on Sept. 4. The forum will be held from 7:00 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Paresky Center auditorium on the Williams College campus. The public is invited to attend and participate.

Willinet will tape the Forum and can provide tapes for rebroadcast by other public access channels. The candidates will make opening and closing statements, and members of the audience will have the opportunity to ask questions. Questions may also be submitted by email in advance to askinner@williams.edu

The three candidates, in alphabetical order, are:
  • Paul J. Caccaviello, of Dalton, who graduated from Western New England College of Law in Springfield in 1989 and the former North Adams State College in 1986, has been an assistant Berkshire district attorney ever since. Caccaviello served on the Saint Agnes School Board, was a member of the Dalton Rotary Club and is a trustee of Berkshire Community College. He announced his candidacy in May  (AUDIO) in a ceremony which drew a state ethics complaint and a response from Caccaviello. 
  • Andrea Harrington, an attorney at Conner and Morneau LLP who has been a criminal and civil practice attorney for 15 years. She is a graduate of Taconic High School and is a Richmond School Committee member. She ran for state senate two years ago but lost to Adam Hinds. She earned an undergraduate degree in international relations in the honors program at the University of Washington and received her law degree, cum laude from American University.
  • Judith C. Knight, of Lee, served as an assistant district attorney in eastern Massachusetts from 1988 to 1993 and has had a Great Barrington private practice since 2006. Also a certified mediatory, she was an adjunct professor at Western New England School of Law from 1999-2005. She worked in the Colorado public defender's office in Denver in 1987-1988 after receiving her law degree in 1987 from Washington and Lee University in Virginia. She ran and lost to incumbent David Capeless in a 2006 primary bid for DA. She announced her candidacy in May.
Capeless retired earlier this year  (AUDIO) and Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, appointed Caccaviello to fill his expired term until November. (See: "A Massachusetts DA tries to crown his successor" by Eoin Higgins, June 26, 2018)

Related: "How Capeless plotted succession plan" (Commonwealth Magazine, May 17, 2018)

The last day to register to vote in the September primary is Aug. 15.  Tuesday's meeting of the three candidates is one of several between now and the Sept. 4 primary.  Their first faceoff was on May 16.

All three candidates have campaign websites: