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Berkshire DA Candidates Clash Over Experience

Josh Landes
The office of the Berkshire District Attorney in downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

About two months before primary day, two Democratic candidates for Berkshire District Attorney are exchanging pointed criticism about their ability to serve effectively.

Paul Caccaviello took over for the retiring District Attorney David Capeless this winter. He faces Andrea Harrington and Judith Knight in the Massachusetts Democraticx primary September 4th, and the race is becoming combative. Two of the three candidates traded press releases and statements questioning each other’s record in recent days.

It began in earnest on July 2nd, when District Attorney Paul Caccaviello released a statement that questioned opponent Andrea Harrington’s “Qualifications and Fitness for DA Office.” In it, Caccaviello said that Harrington had “zero experience in these areas and apparently no knowledge of how the office functions on a daily basis,” and questioned her experience as a criminal defense lawyer.

“The thrust of my campaign is that experience matters. So that- what I did was to make some inquiry and find out exactly what Miss Harrington’s experience is as she runs what for she terms one of the most powerful positions in the county," Caccaviello told WAMC. “It seems that there’s a very, very minimal amount of trial experience in Berkshire County.”

Saying that Harrington, a private practice attorney, “owes voters an explanation on how she would get the work done if she is elected,” the press release said that a public records request revealed that Harrington had “only tried seven cases in Berkshire County, with four of those trials involving OUI charges.”

“When you have little experience for the job that you’re actually seeking, and you claim to be a reformer, you should have some experience and knowledge as to what you’re trying to reform,” said Caccaviello.

A day later, Harrington responded with her own press release that characterized Caccaviello’s claims as “false attacks,” saying the DA “would like to pick and choose my experience to fit his false narrative by falsely claiming that I have little courtroom experience.”

“That kind of attack that is really inaccurate and misleading to me just demonstrates that my opponent’s feeling desperate. He’s running a desperate campaign that’s based on misinformation," said Harrington to WAMC. “I have been practicing law for 15 years. I started my career in Florida, representing people on death row in their post-conviction appeals — I did that for three years. Then I returned home to raise my family. I’ve been working in trial courts, I’ve been working in appeals courts, I’ve been working in the Supreme Judicial Court. I’ve worked on cases ranging from traffic tickets to death penalty cases. I have a civil practice, I do federal court work, superior court civil work.”

Harrington’s release, which referred to Caccaviello as a member of the “old guard,” also suggested that his experience as a prosecutor was limiting.

“My experience is really broad, and actually is more relevant to changing the district attorney’s office and moving into the future than my opponent, who’s really been doing the same thing over and over again for the past 30 years,” she told WAMC.

Caccaviello answered that claim in a separate interview with WAMC by phone.

“I am the old guard," he said, "and the old guard of victims’ rights and the pursuit of justice, that is true. And my experience — as she says, the only one experience I’ve had — is in the job that she is seeking.”

The candidates clashed on other issues, including DA office outreach, incarceration rates, and more. Stay tuned for more on the race and the candidates’ positions.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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