Saturday December 15, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- An ex-convict who served time for robbery was sentenced on Friday in Berkshire Superior Court to up to eight years in state prison for committing two more robberies in the city while on probation.

Christopher M. Riddle, 29, of Pittsfield, admitted to two July robberies in which he netted a little more than $1,200 that he mainly spent on drugs.

His attorney, Jill Sheldon, told the court her client was suffering from a severe drug addiction when he committed the crimes.

"This was fueled by his addiction to heroin," she said.

Riddle admitted he robbed Kirk’s Variety & Hobby Center at 784 Tyler St. on July 10, while wearing a bandana on the lower part of his face and wielding a large butcher knife.

He also admitted that two days later he walked into the Dunkin’ Donuts on Dalton Avenue and robbed that business. He wasn’t carrying a weapon in that crime, according to police. The workers at the doughnut shop recognized Riddle. His fiancée had just been let go from her job there and Riddle had been seen in the store several times that day.

Riddle was arrested 90 minutes later by the Pittsfield Police and was found with 20 bags of heroin in his possession. He admitted to the Dunkin’ Donuts robbery, but initially denied his involvement in the earlier crime.

On Friday, the soft-spoken Riddle, looking healthier than he had at earlier court appearances, politely answered the judge’s questions, admitting he committed both robberies.

He pleaded guilty to single counts of armed robbery, unarmed robbery and possession of heroin. He also admitted he violated his probation by committing the new crimes.

Judge Daniel A. Ford sentenced him to at least seven and no more than eight years in state prison, a sentence in line with a plea deal between the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office and Riddle’s attorney.

Both cases were brought to court via District Attorney’s complaints, a process that bypasses the grand jury and can only happen with the compliance of a defendant. First Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Paul J. Caccaviello said his office took this into consideration, along with Riddle’s willingness to take responsibility for his actions, when they crafted the plea deal.

Riddle was facing a maximum sentence of life in prison for the crimes.

He was released from prison in May 2010 after serving about five years for a conviction on two armed robberies and an attempted armed robbery. According to Sheldon, when Riddle got out he started off well, was working and staying sober, but after he was given painkillers during knee surgery he slid back into drug addiction. While he made strides to overcome them, he ultimately failed, the attorney told the court.

"This is a chance for him to turn his life around," Sheldon said.

After serving his sentence, Riddle plans on moving down South where his pregnant fiancée is now living with his family, according to his attorney.

To reach Andrew Amelinckx:
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