PITTSFIELD -- An ex-convict who broke into a city home and attacked two people in September 2011 was sentenced on Wednesday to at least a decade in state prison.

Justin M. Steele, 32, of Lee pleaded guilty in Berkshire Superior Court to single counts of armed assault in a dwelling, assault and battery and assault with a dangerous weapon in connection with the attack.

Steele forced open Michael D. White's apartment door on Sept. 12, 2011, and attacked White and Nicole M. Henault, who were on a couch, according to Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Richard M. Locke

Police said Steele swung a knife at White and then began punching Henault, his ex-girlfriend, in the face.

White then sprang onto Steele, putting him into a "mixed martial arts-type chokehold," according to a police report. A neighbor called police.

When officers arrived, they found White on top of Steele, who was still in the chokehold.

White then released Steele, whose face was bluish-purple, tongue hanging out of his mouth and eyes rolled back in his head, according to a Pittsfield Police report.

Henault received a "severe laceration" above her right eye and was knocked unconscious, Locke said. The cut required eight stitches.

Henault was not in court on Wednesday out of fear of the defendant, according to Locke.

In a victim impact statement from Henault, read in court by the prosecutor, Henault stated that she has become a fearful person who has trouble trusting people.


Advertisement

"Not one thing in my life is the same," the victim said in her statement.

Steele's attorney, Jill Sheldon, said that her client "reacted in the heat of the moment" after seeing "his best friend and girlfriend" together.

Sheldon said Steele was remorseful for what happened.

Both the prosecutor and defense attorney asked the judge to accept the joint recommendation.

Judge Daniel A. Ford sentenced Steele in line with the recommendation to at least 10 years and no more than 12 years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction.

One count of armed home invasion was dismissed at the request of the Berkshire DA's Office.

Both Locke and Sheldon had been involved in Steele's earlier case.

In 2001, Steele stabbed a local doctor during a failed robbery on North Street as the man walked to his work at Berkshire Medical Center.

In that case, Steele pleaded guilty to several charges and was sentenced on July 1, 2002, to six to nine years in state prison.

Steele was addicted to drugs and under the sway of an older woman at the time of that crime, according to attorneys in the case.

To reach Andrew Amelinckx:
aamelinckx@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6249.
On Twitter: @BE_TheAmelinckx