Pittsfield man found guilty of biting off roommate's thumb
PITTSFIELD -- A Pittsfield man was found guilty of a felony for nearly biting off part of his roommate's thumb last winter during an altercation over bathroom etiquette.
Michael Mensah, 57, was convicted on Thursday of assault and battery causing serious bodily injury. He was acquitted of a felony charge of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
It took a jury of three men and three women less than an hour to reach a verdict.
On the afternoon of Feb. 11, Pittsfield Police responded to a Summer Street residence for a report of a domestic incident and were greeted at the door by a naked man with part of his thumb hanging by a tendon. Mensah, his roommate, was found in his room lying on his bed complaining of pain to his back, neck and head. His shirt was covered in blood and the bathroom "clearly showed signs of a bloody fight."
Both men were taken to Berkshire Medical Center for their injuries.
On Thursday in the Jury of Six session in Central Berkshire District Court, Stephen Quam, 61, testified that part of his right thumb had to be removed.
He said doctors told him because it had been bitten off there was no way to reattach it.
He showed the jury his thumb, which appeared to be missing the first phalanx, including the nail.
In court both men had very different versions of what took place that day, although they agree that the argument was about the use of the bathroom.
According to Quam, who is also from Ghana, he went in to shave his head with a pair of clippers while Mensah was using the toilet. Mensah also is a Ghanian national.
He said he made a comment to his roommate about not telling him he was going to defecate.
"The room began to smell," he said through an interpreter.
This enraged Mensah who attacked him, pushing him into the bathtub, choking and punching him before biting his thumb, which had ended up in Mensah's mouth.
"Part of my thumb came off," he testified.
During the attack Quam was injured when the clippers he was using landed on his foot, he said.
Quam testified that he never struck his roommate that day.
Mensah told the jury he was using the toilet when Quam came in uninvited and began to shave his head. He said he had to "poop" and did so. Quam then came up to him, began thumping him on the head with his fingers and called him a "bush boy."
The interpreter explained this was a very derogatory phrase in Ghana.
When Mensah was finished using the bathroom he tried to leave the room, but was pushed by Quam and fell into the bathtub. He said Quam choked him with one hand and punched him with the other. He eventually bit Quam's thumb to get him to stop beating him, he said.
During his final summation Mensah's attorney, Thomas C. Doyle, said Quam was the aggressor and couldn't keep his story straight because he was trying to come up with an explanation to cover his own actions. He said his client had injuries, including a bloody nose and cut to his forehead, that showed he had been attacked.
"He acted in self-defense," Doyle told the jury.
Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Dana Parsons said any inconsistencies with Quam's testimony were due to the language barrier, not because he had something to hide.
She told the jury that the facts of the case corroborate Quam's testimony. Mensah, she said, could not claim self-defense since he could have left the bathroom, but instead used excessive force.
Mensah has been held on a detainer by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement since his arrest in February. The $100 bail placed on the assault case was revoked and he was ordered held without bail by Judge Matthew J. Shea at the Berkshire County Jail & House of Correction until his sentencing at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Because of the ICE detainer Mensah likely will end up in federal custody following the resolution of the case.
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