Masked home assault nets Pittsfield man up to 11 years


PITTSFIELD -- A city man was sent to state prison for up to 11 years after pleading guilty on Monday to charges related to a pistol-whipping and attempted robbery of a couple in October 2012.

Ansel Sparrow, 24, and another man were wearing hooded sweatshirts pulled tightly around their faces when they entered the West Housatonic Street apartment of a 26-year-old man and a 22-year-old woman and attempted to rob the couple early on Oct. 2, 2012, according to the Berkshire District Attorney's Office.

They were standing over the couple when they awoke.

Sparrow pistol-whipped the man, causing a large laceration to his head, lacerations to his face and a scratched cornea, Second Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Robert W. Kinzer III.

The other man, Steven Lesley, 19, held a knife to the woman and when she tried to get up he hit her in the face with the butt of the knife, Kinzer said. The woman suffered minor injuries.

Sparrow yelled "where's the bread" during the attack, but left empty-handed, Pittsfield police said at the time.

Kinzer said Sparrow also bit the man in the chest as the two scuffled and that Sparrow's DNA was recovered from the wound. The victim's blood was found on Sparrow's clothing, the prosecutor told the court.

No gun was recovered, but a knife was found by investigators in Lesley's vehicle.

The defendant, through his attorney Colin Keefe, said it was a "drug deal gone bad" and that Sparrow only hit the man with an ashtray. Sparrow eventually conceded he had a gun after Berkshire Superior Court Judge John A. Agostini said he wouldn't allow the defendant to plead to facts the defendant wouldn't admit to.

Keefe said his client owed the man a large amount of money for marijuana and had gone to the house with $700 to try and "make it right" but instead ended up making the "wrong decision."

Sparrow, who was supposed to go to trial on Tuesday, pleaded guilty to single counts of armed assault to rob and conspiracy to commit armed robbery while masked and two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. A charge of armed home invasion was dismissed at the request of the DA's Office.

Kinzer asked the court to sentence Sparrow to at least nine years and no more than 11 years in state prison. He said the defendant had previously served a two- to three- year state prison sentence after pleading guilty in 2008 to charges that included larceny of a handgun and breaking and entering.

Keefe admitted his client had a record but said he had stayed out of trouble for some time after getting out of prison and had managed to steer clear of "a bad group of individuals" he had previously associated with. He asked the court to sentence Sparrow to between six and nine years in prison.

In a previous hearing, the DA's Office had alleged Sparrow was a "validated Bloods gang member."

Agostini sentenced the defendant to at least eight years and no more than 11 years in state prison.

Sparrow has already served 525 days in jail awaiting the outcome of the case and unable to make his bail.

Lesley pleaded guilty to similar charges in January and was sentenced to between six and nine years in state prison.

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