On Monday, 49-year-old Michael Lavigne of North Adams was found guilty on two counts of assault and battery on a household member in Northern Berkshire District Court. Berkshire County District Attorney Andrea Harrington has made domestic violence a policy focus, and her office pursued the conviction using evidence gathered from a correctional facility phone, with the victim unwilling to testify. Harrington spoke with WAMC.
HARRINGTON: This was a serious domestic violence incident that occurred in North Adams. The defendant, Michael Levigne, he assaulted the victim on March 7, and again on July 11. And part of our evidence relied on phone calls that he made from the Berkshire County House of Correction, where he was trying to get the victim to not cooperate at the trial and not provide evidence at the trial so that he could be released. He was held pretrial as a danger.
WAMC: Now those phone calls, were they monitored by law enforcement? Or wass that reported by the person on the other end of that call?
So phone calls coming from any house of correction or penal institution are monitored by the institution.
The victim in this case was unavailable to testify. Why was that the case?
Well, in the calls, the defendant was very actively working to dissuade the victim from participating with law enforcement. And he had requested in the phone calls that she plead the Fifth Amendment, so she was not available to testify at the trial. My office has adopted an evidence-based prosecution policy in domestic violence cases. This means that we treat domestic violence cases similar to how you would treat a homicide case, where we present evidence and meet our burden without testimony from the victim in the case. And we have certainly been doing this in District Court. But this case is the longest sentence that we’ve received on a District Court case where we have not had the benefit of the actual victim participating in the trial.
That sentence is for 18 months at the House of Correction. After the fact, when Mr. Levigne is eventually released, is there any system in place to give protection to that victim or to offer Mr. Levigne some sort of post-sentence treatment or process to work through some of these issues?
Yeah, well, the House of Correction should have a reentry program that would prepare anybody who's being released from the house of correction for reentry, which would include those kinds of services. I'll say, additionally, my office is working on our high-risk team. And we're going to be doing a lot of media around that in the very near future. And this team is a team that would do exactly what you say, which is, we would identify high-risk cases from across the county for, you know, continued monitoring and working, you know, across different systems to try to prevent future violence.