Witnesses describe brutal July 4 brawl

Thursday July 26, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Emotions ran high on Wednesday in the Berkshire Superior Court trial of John H. Tart and Stephen C. Abriel, with one witness breaking down and another raising his voice in anger.

Tart, 35, and Abriel, 27, both of Pittsfield, are accused of assaulting people during a July 4, 2010 brawl between two neighboring families that took place in front of 370 Cloverdale St. where James Grant and Anne Wellington were having a party. The night ended in a chaotic fight between people from the Grant party and partygoers from the nearby home of Jesse J. Tart -- John's brother -- who had a long standing feud with Grant, according to trial testimony.

John Tart is facing a single count of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon for allegedly attacking someone with a sledgehammer. Abriel is charged with four counts of assault and battery with a stun gun, possession of a stun gun and assault and battery -- for allegedly punching a woman in the face.

Jesse Tart, 38, received an 18-month jail sentence followed by five years of probation after taking a plea deal on Monday, admitting to drug and weapons charges before the trial began.

On Wednesday, Wellington, 42, who broke down several times during her testimony, told the jury she was punched in the face by Abriel during the brawl that began when several people driving four-wheelers kicked up gravel with their tires, allegedly hitting some vehicles owned by partygoers at the Grant's home.

After being punched in the face, a blow that knocked Wellington to the ground, she said she saw Abriel running through the large crowd randomly Tasing people, including her nephew, David Oathout.

She said she never saw a sledgehammer or a gun, but did hear what she believed were two gunshots.

Grant, Wellington's fiancé, also took the stand on Wednesday and told the jury that Jesse Tart tried to run him over with his four-wheeler, pointed a gun at him and fired it three times in his direction. He also said he saw John Tart hitting people with a sledgehammer and Abriel Tasing people.

Assistant District Attorney Rachael Eramo, who is prosecuting the case with Joseph A. Pieropan, played the 911 tape of Grant's phone call to a dispatcher during the fracas.

During the call Grant tells the dispatcher that John Tart had a gun, later saying John Tart had a sledgehammer. Grant said from the stand that he had mistaken one brother from the other during the chaos and that Jesse had the gun and John the sledgehammer.

Grant said that for years he had the brothers' names switched and only later found out that the man he believed was named John Tart was actually named Jesse. He also initially misidentified to the police which brother allegedly had a gun and which had a sledgehammer.

Grant admitted he had probably consumed a 12-pack of beer by the time the fight occurred.

At one point while being cross-examined by Tart's attorney, Timothy M. Farris, Grant angrily told the lawyer that no matter how much he grilled him he wouldn't change his statements.

Wellington's testimony was somewhat different from that of Grant. She said there had been no underage drinking at their party. Grant admitted there was. Wellington said she heard two shots fired, while Grant said there were three.

The trial continues today and is likely to go to the jury on Friday.


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