At times choking up, Berkshire District Attorney David Capeless surprised the county by announcing his retirement Thursday morning.
“I’m announcing today that I’m stepping down as the Berkshire District Attorney, effective March 15th. I’m retiring," said David Capeless, speaking Thursday in his downtown Pittsfield office.
The unexpected announcement caps a 35-year career as a prosecutor, the last 14 as DA. Capeless cited the successful prosecutions of serial child murderer Lewis Lent, Simon’s Rock school shooter Wayne Lo, and the perpetrators of a 2011 triple murder as among the highlights of his career. But Capeless saved his highest praise for his staff.
“I am most proud of the people who are the Berkshires District Attorney’s office," said an emotional Capeless. "They are, all of them, talented, professional, ethical, dedicated, and hardworking, and the greatest reward of my career has been to work with and lead them.”
“I’ve worked with David for most of my career, both locally and on statewide issues," said Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn. "His leadership on investigation and prosecution of a variety of issues, including domestic violence, crimes against children, internet crime, opioid epidemic, and human traffic has changed the fabric of Berkshire law enforcement for the better.”
Former State Senator Ben Downing has known Capeless, a fellow Democrat, since he was 10. He advocated for Capeless to step into the role in 2004, after the abrupt death of his father, then-District Attorney Gerard Downing.
“He also kept up with what I’d like to think were my father’s strong points, which were constantly being engaged in the community," said Downing. "Long before it was in vogue for elected prosecutors to talk about drugs and addiction as a public health issue, I sat in rooms with David Capeless where he said exactly that. He’s often engaged with the Berkshire United Way, with any numbers of the substance abuse providers, trying to do everything he could in his capacity as a leader in the community to keep people out of the system he was charged of managing.”
Capeless acknowledges some unfinished business.
“I think one regret that I have is that despite 14 years of advocacy, I have not — and my colleagues — together we have not been able to convince the legislature to provide us with the kind of budgets that would allow us to pay assistant district attorneys like Paul and his colleagues the kind of salaries that’s commensurate with the work that they do,” said Capeless.
Capeless’s First Assistant, Paul Caccaviello, will be sworn in to complete the term by Governor Charlie Baker on March 15th. Caccaviello has served as First Assistant for the past 13 years and has spent 28 as a prosecutor. The office of Berkshire District Attorney is on the ballot in November.
Reporting from the WAMC News Berkshire Bureau at the Beacon Cinema, I’m Josh Landes.