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A look back at some of the top court stories from 2021

Central Berkshire District Court (copy)

Central Berkshire District Court in Pittsfield. The coronavirus pandemic continued to weigh on the local court system this year, but, a few trials got underway. 

The coronavirus pandemic continued to weigh on the local court system this year. But, through a mix of virtual and in-person proceedings, cases continued to wend through the courts, and a few trials got underway. Here is a look at some of the biggest stories that played out in Berkshire County courtrooms in 2021. 

October Mountain Shooting trial unexpectedly delayed 

The family of Nick Carnevale was prepared to see two of the four men charged in Carnevale's shooting go to trial in November. But, on the day the trial of Kevin Nieves and Daquan Douglas was set to begin in Berkshire Superior Court, a judge said the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office might have failed to properly disclose potentially exculpatory evidence about a prosecution witness to the defense, and granted a trial delay until March. 

Jason Sefton pleads guilty to second-degree murder

Sefton, 23, admitted he killed William Catalano, a local barber, in October 2018. By pleading guilty to the charge of second-degree murder, Sefton ensured he would have the possibility of parole after serving 25 years behind bars. Catalano was mourned in emotional statements from family read during Sefton's change-of-plea hearing in Berkshire Superior Court. 

Former police officer criminally charged for failing to surrender his firearms 

Former Lanesborough Police Officer Brennan J. Polidoro, 31, already had been fired from his job for improperly looking up women on a criminal justice database — what the chief at the time described as stalking and harassment. When he lost his job, he also lost his firearms license. But, authorities say he failed to turn over his weapons to police, leading prosecutors to charge him with a single count of knowingly failing to surrender firearms. 

Jury clears Anthony Chambers of stabbing a man in 2019

There haven't been many trials in Berkshire Superior Court during the pandemic, and the case against Chambers was one of the first.

Chambers had been accused of stabbing Jai Marshall, with the intent to kill him, in Adams in 2019. Taking the stand in his own defense, Chambers denied that he stabbed Marshall, and said he had been the victim of an attempted robbery planned by his girlfriend and a man she previously dated. The jury apparently credited his testimony, and found Chambers not guilty of the charged offenses. 

Accused of trying to kill her baby, a Pittsfield woman was freed after witnesses fail to appear for trial

Lynn M. Tobler, 39, who prosecutors had accused of trying to smother her infant, had all charges pressed against her dropped after witnesses failed to show up in court. Authorities failed to serve a court summons for a "critical essential witness" who was crucial to the case of Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington. Without their witnesses, prosecutors could not move forward, and a judge agreed to dismiss the case whole cloth. 

West Stockbridge woman sentenced to 4 years behind bars for 2019 vehicular homicide

Francis Kesse worked for Hillcrest Educational Centers in the Berkshires to support his family in Ghana. But, his life was cut short Jan. 11, 2019, when a car driven by 45-year-old Michelle S. Curletti crossed the double-yellow center line on Route 7 in Stockbridge and struck a Toyota SUV carrying Kesse and three others.

This year, Curletti admitted that she had been driving drunk the evening of the crash, and was sentenced to four years incarceration at the Massachusetts Women’s Correctional Center at Chicopee. 

Amanda Burke can be reached at aburke@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6296.

Cops and Courts Reporter

Amanda Burke is Cops and Courts Reporter for The Berkshire Eagle. An Ithaca, New York native, she previously worked at The Herald News of Fall River and the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise.

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