Tuesday July 31, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- A Berkshire Superior Court jury has found John H. Tart and Stephen C. Abriel not guilty on all charges in connection with a July 2010 brawl between neighboring partygoers.

The four-woman, eight-man jury deliberated for about six hours over two days before handing down its decision on Monday.

Identity was the focus of the trial of Tart, 35, and Abriel, 27, both of Pittsfield, with the men's attorneys -- Timothy M. Farris and William A. Rota, respectively -- underscoring a lack of evidence and eyewitnesses linking their clients to the charges.

Prosecutors Joseph A. Pieropan and Rachael Eramo relied on witnesses that claimed they saw the defendants attacking people and a 911 audio recording that caught the fight on tape.

According to trial testimony, on the night of July 4, 2010, a massive fight broke out involving between 50 and 90 people attending two separate parties on Cloverdale Street in Pittsfield.

It was allegedly precipitated by a long-standing feud between James Grant, one of the prosecution's key witnesses in the case, and Jesse Tart, John's brother.

Police and prosecutors alleged that John Tart assaulted a man with a sledgehammer and that Abriel punched a woman and used a stun gun on other partygoers during the melee.

On Monday, John Tart was found not guilty of a single count of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.

The jury found Abriel not guilty of nine charges, including four counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, three counts of assault and battery, and single counts of witness intimidation and possession of a stun gun.

The men's families, seated in the gallery, gave out a communal gasp of relief after the verdicts were read.

After the concussion of the trial, the men's attorneys expressed their gratitude to the jury.

"Mr. Abriel and I are thrilled that the jury worked very hard, deliberated for two days and came to the right decision -- that Mr. Abriel was innocent of the charges," said Rota.

"It was the appropriate verdict," Farris told The Eagle.

Jesse Tart, 38, took a plea deal, admitting to drug and weapons charges, just before his brother and Abriel's trial began on July 23. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail and five years of probation.

The case was investigated by the Pittsfield Police Department.