PITTSFIELD -- A local attorney wants a judge to find Pittsfield police and Berkshire District Attorney's Office in contempt for twice denying his client -- in direct violation of a court order -- more than $7,000 they seized from him in May.
In a motion filed in Central Berkshire District Court, attorney Robert D. Sullivan Jr. argued the police and DA's office also should pay his attorney fees and have imposed other unnamed sanctions the court "deems reasonable and just."
"The Commonwealth and its agents have willfully and continuously denied the order of this court, thus continuing to deprive the defendant of his property without due process of law under state and federal statutory and constitutional law," Sullivan wrote in the court filing. The motion is scheduled to be heard in Central Berkshire District Court on Oct. 8.
Sullivan's client, Teddy Cepeda, 34, was arrested May 17 on assault with a gun and breaking and entering charges after he allegedly pushed his way into a city residence, put a gun against the head of his child's mother and then fled with their 6-year-old son. Cepeda denies the charges.
When police arrested Cepeda at his Danforth Avenue home, they discovered a scale with suspected cocaine residue as well as $7,275 -- neither of which was related to the charges he was facing at the time.
They seized the scale, money, cellphones, an iPod and Cepeda's wallet. No gun was ever found and the residue on the scale wasn't field-tested, according to court documents.
During an August hearing in Central Berkshire District Court, Judge Fredric D. Rutberg denied a motion by Sullivan to have the money and Cepeda's personal items, minus the scale, returned. Rutberg said he would reconsider the motion if DA's office did not file an indictment by the end of the month.
On Sept. 11, Sullivan renewed his motion. This time, Rutberg ruled in favor, noting that the case had been pending for several months and still hadn't been indicted, court documents show.
Cepeda went to the Pittsfield police station with the court order, but the police refused to give him back his money and other items, according to Sullivan.
Six days later, after the judge denied a motion filed by the DA's office to reconsider the order to return the items, Cepeda again went to the police station and was refused a second time. Police allegedly told Cepeda they were "planning to go over the judge's head."
Police said the residue from the scale has since been tested at a crime lab and was found to be cocaine.
On Sept. 17, a grand jury indicted Cepeda on a charge of manufacturing cocaine, along with the breaking and entering and assault with a gun charges. The DA's office also initiated a civil forfeiture proceeding more than four months after the money was seized. Judge John A. Agostini issued a temporary order keeping the money in police custody.
Cepeda is scheduled to be arraigned in Berkshire Superior Court on Wednesday, according to court documents. He remains free on $1,000 bail.
Calls to Pittsfield Police Chief Michael J. Wynn and City Solicitor Kathleen Degnan were not immediately returned.
To reach Andrew Amelinckx:
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