Trial begins in Pittsfield kidnapping and assault case

Tuesday January 8, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- It was a long night of partying between two acquaintances that turned violent, according to police. When it was over, Brian Podavini of Pittsfield was accused of attacking Brian Harris Jr. with a baseball bat and a metal flashlight.

Podavini, 42, has been charged with kidnapping, witness intimidation, and two counts of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon in connection with that incident, which took place on Sept. 25, 2011.

On Monday, Podavini’s jury trial on those charges began in Berkshire Superior Court.

In opening arguments before Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Ford, Assistant District Attorney Marianne Shelvey said Podavini and Harris had been doing drugs and partying all night when Podavini got upset about something Harris had said about him.

"He became paranoid and thought Brian Harris had stolen his cocaine," Shelvey said.

She said Podavini picked up a baseball bat and began hitting Harris in the head. "He was just pounding on him," Shelvey said.

Podavini refused to allow Harris to leave, then smashed his cell phone, preventing him from calling the police. That led police to charge Podavini with witness intimidation.

After Podavini took his car and car keys, Shelvey said Harris went to a neighbor’s residence and called police. Shelvey said medical records would show how badly Harris was beaten.

Attorney Jill Sheldon of Pittsfield, who represents Podavini, said that Harris had told a next door neighbor that Podavini had struck him several times in the head and jaw with a baseball bat -- hitting him so hard that he fell off a chair and ended up on the floor -- and had also struck him in the back with a flashlight.

"That’s the evidence," Sheldon said, adding that the prosecution did not have the bat, flashlight or smashed cellphone to present to the court.

"What you do hear that you don’t see comes from Mr. Harris," she said.

Sheldon said the jury would also have the opportunity to determine whether photos taken of Harris’ injuries were consistent with the type of assault that had been reported.

Police also took two statements from Harris, the second coming after a detective had questions about the first statement, Sheldon said.

Monday’s lone witness, Pittsfield Police Officer Jennifer Brueckmann, described talking with Harris after the alleged incident took place, both in and out of the hospital, taking photos of Harris’ injuries, visiting the victim’s residence on McLaughlin Place, trying to locate Podavini, and writing her police report.

During cross-examination, Sheldon questioned Brueckmann over her description of Harris’ injuries, and statements that she had made in front of the grand jury that had indicted Podavini.

On redirect from Shelvey, Brueckmann described Harris’ injuries as "fresh."

The trial is scheduled to continue today.


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