Wednesday January 9, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- A jury returned a not-guilty verdict for a 58-year-old woman who had been accused of attacking a neighbor with a large candle during a fight.

On Tuesday in the Jury of Six session of Central Berkshire District Court, four women and two men deliberated for about 20 minutes before finding Vera Allison of West Street in Pittsfield not guilty of felony assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and assault and battery, a misdemeanor.

The Pittsfield Police arrested Allison on March 27 and charged her after she allegedly struck Tess Vander Voort, 21, with a large candle during an argument at a neighbor's home about comments Vander Voort made about Allison's brother. The two women then wrestled on the ground.

Vander Voort said she put Allison in a headlock.

Allison admitted she had hold of Vander Voort's hair, but said she was only trying to prevent the younger woman from rolling on top of her. They stayed that way until they agreed to stop fighting.

Both women suffered minor injuries.

At trial, Allison testified in her defense. She told the jury she picked up the candle and threw it to the ground in anger. The candle rolled across the floor and away from where Vander Voort was standing, Allison said.

"I was never going to do anything to her," Allison told the jury. "I never hit her."

Allison's version of events was reiterated by Linda Wojcik, 65, at whose home the incident took place. All three women live in the Riverview West apartment complex.

"[Allison] said, ‘Darn it,' and threw [the candle] down on the floor," Wojcik said.

Wojcik said Vander Voort then stood up from the couch, and then "they were together and that was it -- shebang!"

During final summations, prosecutor Daniel Hespeler alleged that Allison was the initial aggressor and that Wojcik was good friends with Allison. Wojcik, during testimony, admitted she and the defendant came to court together on Tuesday.

Allison's attorney Robert D. Sullivan Jr. told the jury that Vander Voort was "lacking credibility" as a witness, and that Wojcik was an impartial witness since she was friends with both women.

To reach Andrew Amelinckx:
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On Twitter: @BE_TheAmelinckx