Pittsfield woman acquitted in alleged 2011 attack on pregnant woman
PITTSFIELD -- A city woman accused of helping her sister beat up a pregnant woman was found not guilty on all charges on Thursday after a two-day trial.
Ashley Clark, 25, of Pittsfield, was found not guilty of felony aggravated assault and battery and vandalizing property. The jury of four women and two men deliberated for less than 45 minutes.
Her attorney, Joshua C. Hochberg, described the events of Dec. 13, 2011, as a "soap opera" involving his client's sister and her neighbor 32-year-old Trish Heath, then known as Trish Martin.
"This is about two women who behaved horribly and one innocent woman who was dragged into it," the attorney told the jury on Wednesday during the Jury of Six session of Central Berkshire District Court. "My client did the right thing -- she stopped her sister from fighting and that was it. She did nothing wrong."
Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Laila Atta said both sisters attacked the woman and focused their blows on her stomach.
On the day of the incident, Shayla Clark, 32, went to see Heath, a neighbor in a Pittsfield duplex and a woman she considered a friend, according to testimony.
Shayla Clark said she had been arguing with her boyfriend and went over to Heath's house to vent about it, something the two did together. But shortly after she arrived Heath broke down in tears and confessed that she was seven or eight weeks pregnant by Shayla Clark's boyfriend of 13 years.
"I was shocked," the elder Clark said from the stand. "I walked out of her house."
The woman admitted that in a fit of anger she took an electric blender and smashed the windshield of Heath's car with it.
She said she thought she would have felt better afterwards, but didn't. She then began throwing her boyfriend's things out on the porch and saw Heath standing by her front door.
She said she followed Heath down to her car to talk with her and grabbed at the Heath's phone during the ensuing heated exchange. She told the jury when she reached for the phone Heath hit her in the neck.
Shayla Clark said Heath's car had dents and dings in it previous to that day and that neither she nor her sister kicked the car.
Ashley Clark took the stand and said she received a distraught phone call from her sister asking her to pick up her youngest child. When she drove over to her sister's house she saw the two women standing close by Heath's car arguing. She said she walked over and got in between the two women and told her sister to go inside. Ashley Clark said she never touched Heath, whom she considered a friend.
Heath told a very different story. She said as she attempted to get into her car, Shalya Clark came around the front of her car and her sister from behind and that Ashley Clark kicked her in the stomach several times while Shayla Clark tried to slam the car door on her. She said she fought with both sisters who continued to kick her before turning on her car and kicking it.
"They were both very angry," she said.
Heath broke down in tears during her testimony.
Two sanitation workers who were working nearby at the time of the incident took the stand and said they heard a banging noise and saw three girls arguing, but didn't see anyone physically fighting or attacking the vehicle.
Pittsfield Police Officer David Potash took the stand and said there was no visible bruises or cuts on Heath when he spoke with her at the hospital and that she suffered no broken bones.
The jury returned a verdict of not guilty on both charges.
Shayla Clark's case has already been disposed of. In May 2012 she pleaded to facts sufficient for a finding of guilt and had the charges continued without a finding of guilt. They were dismissed in February 2013.
To reach Andrew Amelinckx: firstname.lastname@example.org or (413) 496-6249. On Twitter: @BETheAmelinckx.
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