North Adams pair facing assault charges after altercation


NORTH ADAMS — Two city men are facing assault charges for allegedly fracturing a man's face in a fight last week.

Richard Sifton, 34, and Karl Barber, 50, allegedly assaulted Craig Avery in a dispute over a shared kitchen, according to prosecutors, but both men claim they were acting in self-defense

As a result of the fight, Avery suffered multiple fractures to his orbital bone. He was been transported to Albany Medical Center and could lose an eye, according to prosecutors.

When officers initially arrived at the scene at about 5 p.m. Friday, they found a trail of blood on the third floor porch and a piece of wooden particle board also covered in blood, according to a police report filed by North Adams Police Officer Kyle Cahoon.

Avery told police that he was assaulted by Sifton and two other men, including Barber, who were armed with pipes. The third man has not been charged.

Barber initially denied involvement in the fight, but Sifton told police he became involved while attempting to break up an ongoing struggle between Avery and Barber. Sifton told police he left the altercation after he was struck by Avery, but officers noted both Barber and Sifton had cuts on their hands, according to the report.

In their interviews with police, Barber and Sifton denied assaulting Avery.

When advised by police that he was being held on bail, Barber allegedly yelled a racial slur. Police also noted that they had responded to the apartment complex in the past for a report of Barber calling Avery a racial slur.

The altercation allegedly began after Avery bragged about urinating in the ice cube trays of the building's shared kitchen, according to the police report.

During Monday's arraignments, defense attorneys for both Sifton and Barber argued that it was Avery who provoked the fight by shoving Barber, an account corroborated by two witnesses.

"Mr. Barber did not start this fight," said attorney Michelle Mechta, "[but] he did engage in self-defense."

Both men pleaded not guilty in Northern Berkshire District Court on Monday to two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and assault and battery causing serious bodily injury.

Judge Patrick Sabbs set the bail for both men at $2,500, and they are next due to appear in court on Sept. 16 for a pretrial hearing.

Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376.


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