Man accused of harassing former Miss Hall's students ruled incompetent to stand trial


PITTSFIELD -- A Pittsfield man accused of harassing former Miss Hall's School students and teachers by sending them letters and making repeated calls to their homes, had all charges dismissed against him after a court appointed psychologist determined he was incompetent to stand trial and not fit to be committed to a psychiatric hospital.

Judge Paul Vrabel threw out the charges against the defendant, Damon Fleischer, in a decision this week that was publicly documented on Friday in Central Berkshire District Court.

Fleischer, 51, was admitted to Worcester Recovery Center last July for 19 days after he was charged with multiple counts of harassment for his repeated calls to the school and former students, as well as sending letters. Dr. Elizabeth White Henrikson, a neuropsychologist at Worcester Recovery Center, determined that he was not competent to stand trial.

Last week, the court's forensic service psychologist, Deane Zarvis, testified in court that Fleischer was "not competent to stand trial" and that he suffered from mental illness due to a brain injury. Fleischer, a former student at the school when it allowed males, suffered the injury in a motorcycle accident in 1982. Zarvis said that Fleischer was not competent "around this issue" regarding Miss Hall's School students and teachers but was competent in other issues.

Vrabel asked Zarvis if Fleischer's fixation on the students from the school would go away. "I don't know," Zarvis replied.

Vrabel asked prosecutors why they didn't obtain an independent expert to dispute the assessments by Zarvis and Henrikson.

Vrabel said he couldn't commit Fleischer to further hospital detention without an outside expert opinion. "Why haven't you hired an expert?" Vrabel said to Berkshire Assistant District Attorney Daniel Hespeler. "In my opinion, if somebody's dangerous, you move quickly," he said.

"We're not fighting competency," Hespeler said. He said Vrabel could rule on whether Fleischer was dangerous and commit him based on being dangerous. A competency hearing was required first, before a decision on dangerousness could be made, he said.

"I have no doubt about his dangerousness," Vrabel said.

However, in his opinion in which he dismissed the charges, Vrabel said he legally could not admit Fleischer or allow him to stand trial based on the testimony of the doctors.

Hespeler said that Fleischer was delusional, contacting former female students from Miss Hall's School Class of 2006 and their parents repeatedly. According to the criminal complaint, Fleischer had also contacted the school numerous times, trying to obtain a 2006 school yearbook. He also contacted two music teachers.

According to the criminal complaint, Fleischer had reached out to former students who live as far away as California and had worried them due to the information he knew about them, including the colleges they attended, their addresses and phone numbers. In one of the letters, Fleischer wrote extensively in detail about his own personal life and relationships.

In his ruling, Vrabel stated that "the commonwealth's petition is not supported by any evidence from a qualified examiner that the defendant meets the legal requirements for involuntary commitment." Both Henrikson and Zarvis do not believe Fleischer should be involuntarily committed, Vrabel stated. "Without the opinion of a qualified examiner that the defendant meets the criteria for involuntary commitment," Vrabel stated that he can't consider the motion as "a matter of law."

Further, due to Fleischer's traumatic brain injuries, he will never be competent to stand trial, Vrabel ruled.

Fleischer was represented by attorney David Cafarelli. "I think it was the right thing to do," Cafarelli said about the decision.

A message left at Miss Hall's School was not returned.

To reach Nathan Mayberg:
or (413) 496-6243


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