Mayoral candidate Craig Gaetani seeks dismissal; claims hearing tainted

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PITTSFIELD — City mayoral candidate Craig Gaetani has filed a motion seeking to have criminal charges against him dropped, claiming that members of the press and the public were present during his court magistrate hearing.

Judge Michael Ripps heard arguments from Gaetani — who is representing himself against the allegations — and prosecutors Thursday and said he will have a decision on the matter ready for Gaetani's next court date.

Gaetani is accused of threatening to shoot a municipal employee and burn her house down during two separate series of phone calls made in June and July.

In a two-page handwritten motion and during Thursday's hearing, Gaetani said his case should be dismissed after insisting the clerk magistrate hearing that led to the filing of criminal charges in district court was improperly held.

Gaetani claims the July 30 hearing was held in open court in front of a "packed courtroom crowd, including press people," part of the motion reads.

No Eagle reporter attended that hearing.

When Gaetani was asked which members of the media were in attendance, he could not identify any and would only respond "the press" to repeated queries.

Gaetani said because the hearing was held in a room in the courthouse referred to as "Courtroom 3," means it was heard in open court.

Ripps said Thursday that Courtroom 3 is used for magistrate hearings, which are typically not open to the public in contrast to district and superior court matters, which are open and held in different courtrooms.

The Eagle obtained a copy of the criminal complaint against Gaetani only after his case had been moved into district court following the determination by the magistrate there was enough probable cause to move the case forward.

Ripps said that even if the presiding magistrate had abused their discretion and allowed the press and public into the hearing, Gaetani would still need to demonstrate that action irreparably hindered his ability to mount a defense against his charges.

Prosectors asked Ripps to deny the motion, stating Gaetani had not met that burden.

Gaetani called the prosecutor's argument, "legal mumbo-jumbo."

During an August proceeding in the case, Gaetani told Ripps it was his brother who made the offending calls. On Thursday, Gaetani said his brother was trying to, "take a fall," for him by accepting responsibility and it was someone else who made the offending calls, but he declined to identify that person.

Gaetani has pleaded not guilty to charges of threatening to commit a crime and making harassing phone calls.

He is free on his own recognizance provided he have no contact with the alleged victim and not call the Pittsfield Fire Department unless there is an emergency.

Gaetani is due back in court on Sept. 21 for a pre-trial hearing by which time, Ripps said he will have rendered his decision.

Gaetani is on the ballot, along with current City Clerk Linda M. Tyer, Donna M. Walto, and Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, in a preliminary election for mayor on Sept. 22. The top two finishers will square off in the Nov. 3 general election.

Contact Bob Dunn at 413-496-6249.


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