Berkshire DA Disputes Criticisms Over Handling Of Williams Sexual Assault Case

Nov 2, 2018

Berkshire District Attorney Paul Caccaviello is, once again, responding to criticism of his office’s handling of sexual assault reports at Williams College.

Berkshire DA Paul Caccaviello is running a write-in campaign in Tuesday’s election against Democratic primary winner Andrea Harrington. She won September’s primary by a few hundred votes.

Friday morning, Caccaviello refuted claims made to WAMC by attorney John Pucci Wednesday about his office’s handling of a sexual assault case Pucci worked on at Williams College.

“Specifically his claim that evidence was not preserved and that law enforcement feigned interest in the case is simply not true,” said the DA.

Reading from a statement, Caccaviello told WAMC that the Williamstown Police Department conducted a more than two-month investigation that included interviews with 23 witnesses — 10 of which he said were named by Pucci.

“Prosecutors are duty bound to bring a charge only when there is evidence to support the allegation," said Caccaviello. "Experienced prosecutors and law enforcement reviewed the matter and concluded that there was not a reasonable basis to bring a charge.”

One of Pucci’s key claims in his criticism of the DA’s office, then headed by David Capeless with Caccaviello in the role of First Assistant District Attorney, was that it did not maintain forensic evidence in the case, in violation of Massachusetts state law. Pucci went on to claim that the Williamstown Police Department also violated that that same law that such evidence be held for 15 years.

“Attorney Pucci requested that he be allowed to take possession of evidence collected in the case," said Caccaviello. "That was done in April of 2017. What was not turned over to him were biological samples taken pursuant to a sexual assault examination. Massachusetts State Police Crime Laboratory, by law and policy, much preserve such samples and did so in this matter.”

Reporting by independent journalist Eoin Higgins that the The Greylock Glass published this week uncovered an email from the Williamstown Police Department to Pucci saying that because the Berkshire DA’s office had made the decision not to present the case to a grand jury, it would no longer preserve the evidence as it was no longer part of a criminal investigation. An Assistant District Attorney from the Berkshire DA’s office — Gregory Barry — was included in the January 8th, 2017 email. 

Lastly, Caccaviello used his statement to hit back at Pucci’s contention that the Berkshire DA’s office could have made inroads to further prosecutions of the 73 reported sexual assault cases at Williams between 2014 and 2017 by using the power of a grand jury investigation. Caccaviello says that claim is “absurd.”

“This is because it would be an abuse of prosecutorial power to use the authority of a grand jury to force Williams College to reveal the names of students who chose not to publish their identity and entrusted the college with respecting their wishes," the DA told WAMC. "Mr. Pucci’s position would only discourage victims from reporting these incidents to the college for fear that their names would be released to law enforcement.”

Caccaviello would not take questions from WAMC beyond reading his prepared statement.

Williams College declined a request for comment, and Williamstown Police Chief Kyle Johnson did not respond to requests for comment.