Saturday January 12, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- A 42-year-old Pittsfield man was sentenced Friday morning to between two and three years in state prison for intimidating a witness after a night of crack-smoking and alcohol swilling in September 2011.

Judge Daniel Ford ordered Brian K. Podavini to serve his sentence at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction.

A Berkshire Superior Court jury found Podavini guilty of the charge after about two hours of deliberation on Wednesday. They found him not guilty of two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and a single count of kidnapping.

The maximum sentence for witness intimidation is 10 years in state prison.

The three-day Berkshire Superior Court trial included testimony from the victim, 25-year-old Brian Harris Jr. On Friday, Harris told the court that he was traumatized by the events of that night and now finds it hard to trust people.

"I will suffer for the rest of my life," he said.

Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Marianne Shelvey said on Sept. 25, 2011, Podavini smashed Harris' cell phone to keep him from calling for help -- the basis for the charge of witness intimidation -- while "in a drug-induced rage" after a night of hard partying with the victim at Podavini's Pittsfield apartment. Shelvey said the incident was sparked by Podavini's belief that Harris had been talking badly about him around town.


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Podavini did not take the stand in his own defense at trial.

On Friday, Shelvey asked for a 31 2 to 41 2 year state prison sentence for the defendant based on his record, which included assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, witness intimidation and drunken-driving convictions. While Podavini has served local jail time, she said, he has never been to prison and she hoped the experience would give him the "motivation he needs to change."

Podavini's attorney, Jill Sheldon, asked for probation for her client, telling the court his behavior was motivated by substance abuse and that he would benefit from supervision and counseling.

The attorney said Podavini was the sole caretaker for his sick mother. She asked that if the judge felt incarceration was needed that he allow Podavini to do the time locally so his mother would be able to visit him.

Podavini is still facing unrelated charges of possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute and conspiracy to violate the drug laws. Those charges stem from an April Berkshire County Drug Task Force investigation into alleged drug dealing at the former Hermann Alexander's bar.