The wives of Berkshire District Attorneys past and present are getting involved in the Democratic primary campaign.
Within hours of each other on June 28th and June 29th, Betsy Capeless and Karen Caccaviello reached out to local business owners tied to criticism of their husbands: former District Attorney David Capeless, and his longtime colleague, current DA Paul Caccaviello.
Caccaviello is running in a three-way primary to keep the job.
“They’re calling my husband and Mr. Caccaviello, who is the current District Attorney, shady disgraceful and shameful," said Betsy Capeless. "These are 25-plus year veterans of the District Attorney’s office who have served this county collectively in a great way for many many years.”
Capeless said that on June 28th, in a message left with Berkshire Money Management, a Dalton-based financial advising company that sponsors the John Krol Show — a Facebook live program hosted by Pittsfield City Council vice president John Krol. On June 26th, Krol interviewed Eoin Higgins, a freelance journalist who published an article that day on TheAppeal.org about communications between David Capeless and Republican Governor Charlie Baker’s office. The core of the article was about emails between the parties that detailed how Capeless would deliberately mislead local journalists by taking out re-election papers as he handed off the mantle to Caccaviello.
“I don’t appreciate having my husband called a liar, having him be accused of circumventing the democratic process, while at the same time playing videos of him circumventing the democratic process while at the same time playing videos where he explains exactly what he is doing in an open honest and direct way,” continued Betsy Capeless in her message.
Capeless went on to suggest that Krol’s wife is the best friend of DA candidate Andrea Harrington. Krol has characterized this as an overstatement, and a review of the segment with Higgins shows neither Krol nor his guest referring to Capeless or Caccaviello in the terms Betsy Capeless claimed — though Krol does describe the situation as “a shady handoff, as it were.”
Krol, who acknowledged his public support for Harrington, said that his show stuck to the facts and said he would not be intimidated by outside pressure.
“This is a community program, and there’s a lot of discussion out there,” Krol told WAMC.
Near the end of her message, Betsy Capeless said that she “really [doesn’t] appreciate it, and neither do the Caccaviellos.”
“Frankly, initially I respected — I thought to myself, this is a person I could spend time with, someone who wants to defend their family, I get that," said Allen Harris, CEO of Berkshire Money Management. He says he stands by the John Krol Show and will continue to sponsor it. He claimed that Betsy Capeless rejected an overture to meet about the message. The Capelesses could not be reached for comment.
Harris said a second piece of news changed his understanding of the Capeless message from an emotional one to a political one.
“But then I quickly learned that there was also a similar call to another local business from the wife of DA Caccaviello,” he told WAMC.
“I was sitting at the bar one night after — I was waiting for the dishwasher to close up shop, just having a beer, and I got a text message," Luke Marion told WAMC. He owns Otto’s, a bar and restaurant in downtown Pittsfield. Karen Caccaviello texted him through the business’s Google contact just after midnight on June 29th.
“I got one kind of angry message," said Marion, "and I said, wait, wait, who is this? Why are you messaging me? It kind of unfurled from there.”
Marion made a May 11th Facebook post referring to Caccaviello as a “nice guy” that lambasted him for being “set up to have a leg up in the county District Attorney race through collusion,” citing the reports of Capeless’s choreographed exit as “everything that is wrong with our system.” Marion said he would not be supporting Caccaviello as a result. On May 18th, Marion posted a link to the Commonwealth Magazine article on the Capeless transition with the comment that “everyone involved should be ashamed.”
Caccaviello’s texts to Marion said that he made her “ill” and that while she had enjoyed patronizing Otto’s she would not return. She also said that while she “wouldn’t get into it with [Marion],” she had a “big Italian family” that she described as “loyal,” warning Marion to “watch his mouth” and suggesting she would direct people to the nearby Highland restaurant over Otto’s. DA Paul Caccaviello told WAMC that Karen Caccaviello had no comment.
Marion says he didn’t interpret the comments as threatening, but still had a bad taste in his mouth over the interaction.
“It’s the District Attorney," he told WAMC, "and it’s the District Attorney’s wife who, like it or not, is associated with the office, and it’s kind of an uneasy feeling to be on the wrong side of the District Attorney’s office.”
Marion told WAMC that he while he wasn’t rattled, he had lodged a complaint with the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission. When approached by WAMC, the commission said it can neither confirm nor deny an investigation based on strict confidentiality laws. Harris, from Berkshire Money Management, says that his encounter did leave him shaken.
“It’s very scary to have a political family wield their power to threaten a local business and to use that threat to try to influence an election,” said Harris to WAMC.
DA Caccaviello tells WAMC that his wife’s comments don’t bear any weight from his office.
“It was not meant to be any sort of political statement, or any sort of signal from my campaign," said Caccaviello. "Simply wasn’t that. If people want to make more of it, I don’t know that anything I would say would ever change their minds, but they ought to take of f their political blinders.”
He said his wife’s comments came from an emotional place.
“It came from a place of love and support from her family — or for her family, I should say," said the District Attorney. "We’ve learned politics and social media and that kind of support don’t mix, and lesson learned.”
Caccaviello dismissed a claim made by Harris to WAMC of a coordinated effort between his family and the Capelesses to influence the election.
“It’s not true, I can’t put it any simpler than that," he told WAMC. "It’s not true at all. I’ll say it out loud: that’s absurd.”
Election day is September 4th.