PITTSFIELD -- Identity is taking center stage in the Berkshire Superior Court trial of a city man accused of committing a string of armed robberies while masked in 2011.
On Monday, the opening day of the trial, prosecutor Paul J. Caccaviello told the jury that Raheem B. Garrett, 28, was responsible for eight armed robberies or attempted armed robberies of city businesses between August and November 2011. The first assistant district attorney said that Garrett's co-defendant, 22-year-old Laura Methe -- who was also Garrett's girlfriend at the time of the robberies -- would be testifying for the prosecution about the duo's crime spree.
According to the prosecutor, officers recovered a mask, a BB-gun pistol, and gloves from the sport utility vehicle that Methe was driving and in which Garrett was a passenger. They were apprehended following a police chase that ensued after the robbery of the Domino's Pizza on Elm Street on Nov. 22, 2011.
DNA evidence also links Garrett to the crime, Caccaviello said.
"Mr. Garrett denies being a participant in any of these crimes," Thomas J. Donohue Jr., who is representing Garrett, told the jury during his opening statement.
According to Donohue, witnesses never offered a positive identification of his client, and Methe, who is facing the same charges as Garrett, was testifying to help her own case.
"She needs someone to blame it on," he said.
Donohue later questioned a Pittsfield Police sergeant on whether his client was beaten by the police while being taken into custody.
Sgt. Marc Strout, who heads the department's drug unit and was the first officer to give chase on Nov. 22, 2011, said that Garrett was pulled from the vehicle after refusing police orders to get out of the SUV. He said other officers may have used a baton on Garrett's leg to get him to comply. Strout testified that he didn't see anyone hit Garrett in the head during the arrest.
The prosecution's first witness was Luke Coviello, 21, a Dalton resident who was the assistant manager of the Domino's Pizza on Elm Street last year and who was working on both nights the store was robbed in September and November 2011. He said the experience left him shaken and angry.
"Are you kidding me?" he recalled saying after walking out from the back of the restaurant to see that the store was being robbed yet again by what appeared to be the same perpetrator.
According to Coviello, the hooded sweatshirt, mask and BB-gun pistol, which were allegedly recovered from the defendant, resembled the gun and the clothing worn by the man who robbed the Domino's on both occasions. He could not identify the robber.
Other testimony on Monday included more witnesses to the robberies and police officers.
The trial continues today.
Garrett remains in jail on $25,000 cash or bond.
Methe is currently free after being released in June with an ankle-monitoring device.
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