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Pittsfield man, already charged with child sexual assault, indicted in federal court on child exploitation, pornography counts

PITTSFIELD — A man accused of a litany of child sexual assault crimes in local court is now facing federal charges for allegedly making child pornography.

Justin Benoit has been indicted in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts on five counts of sexual exploitation of children and one count of possession of child pornography, court documents show.

The indictment also contained a forfeiture allegation seeking possession of two smartphones, a tablet and a hard drive that prosecutors say are connected to the crimes.

The federal case stems from allegations Benoit manufactured child pornography, Assistant District Attorney Joseph Yorlano said in Berkshire Superior Court on Tuesday. The underlying criminal conduct is being prosecuted locally.

“They’re [federal authorities] charging him, my understanding is, for the manufacturing of child pornography,” Yorlano said. “The Berkshire District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting him for the sexual acts that are depicted in the photos and videos.”

Benoit is accused of exploiting two minors for the purpose of producing visual depictions, according to federal court papers.

Defense lawyer Dean Manuel, who was appointed to represent Manuel in his superior court case, said Benoit will undergo an evaluation to determine his competency to stand trial in the federal case.

Manuel, who isn’t representing Benoit in the federal case, said the results of the competency evaluation may be relevant to the Berkshire Superior Court matter, and should be available within about three months.

An affidavit filed in support of the initial federal criminal case against Benoit has been sealed to protect the identity of the victims, according to court records.

The case against Benoit, 37, got its start in Central Berkshire District Court last February. Police filed charges against Benoit for the rape of a child with force, posing a child for sexual photographs and possession of child pornography. Police reports connected to that case were also impounded for similar reasons.

The prosecution was elevated to the Superior Court, which has jurisdiction over more serious crimes that lack an interstate aspect, in June, when a Berkshire County grand jury indicted him on 19 counts.

He pleaded not guilty to 14 counts of indecent aggravated assault and battery on a child under 14, and five counts of aggravated rape of a child with force.

He was ordered held in federal custody based on the nature of the crimes he’s charged with, the age of the minor victims, and to ensure the safety of the public, according to court documents. He is due back in Berkshire Superior Court on April 19.

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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