Alleged victim testifies in assault trial of policeman

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PITTSFIELD — Since July 4, 2016, Michael Cebula has lied to police, prosecutors, jurors, a judge and a grand jury.

Soon, it will be up to a Berkshire Superior Court jury to decide whether he is now telling the truth.

Cebula, 57, of Dalton took the stand Thursday and testified that his son in-law Jason Labelle and city police Officer Michael McHugh assaulted and beat him badly enough to put him in the hospital for over a week.

Labelle and McHugh have each pleaded not guilty to multiple charges alleging they beat and threatened Cebula then lied about it to investigators. Testimony in their trial began Wednesday.

McHugh has since been suspended from the department,

Special prosecutor Steven Gagne, brought in to try the case against the men, acknowledged that throughout the investigation, Cebula wasn't truthful about how much he had to drink that day.

Both during the investigation into the assault and during his own trial on an OUI charge stemming from the July 4 incident, Cebula maintained he'd only had one drink the entire day.

However, as the trial date approached, Cebula admitted to investigators he had been drinking at a bar for several hours before driving into Labelle's neighborhood about 9 p.m.

Cebula testified he drove to that area in hopes of catching a glimpse of some of his family at Labelle's house, as he often hosted Fourth of July parties there. Cebula was no longer welcome at that house, according to testimony.

He denied getting into a physical altercation with Labelle at that point, as the defense has suggested.

After seeing no one at the house, Cebula said, he drove to the store to buy cigarettes before returning to Labelle's neighborhood.

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Cebula said he'd pulled into a driveway, lit a cigarette, and was about to leave when McHugh pulled him out of his truck, wrenched his arm behind his back and threw him up against the side of the vehicle.

He said McHugh threw him to the ground while Labelle delivered a series of kicks to his head, back and ribs before telling him, "If I ever see you down here again, I'll kill you."

During a sometimes contentious cross-examination by McHugh's attorney, Timothy Shugrue, Cebula was grilled regarding details of his account.

Cebula denied being in the area to intimidate, scare or stalk his family. He also denied knowing the whereabouts of a missing firearm that was among those he was required to surrender as a condition of a restraining order taken out against him.

Cebula also denied telling police he tried to buy a firearm in New Hampshire.

Shugrue argued that the notion of the missing gun added to the concerns that Cebula may be in possession of it while in the neighborhood.

McHugh, 45, was placed on suspension without pay in August 2017 after his indictment by a Berkshire County grand jury and a local civil service hearing, according to Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn.

He has pleaded not guilty to charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery, misleading a police officer and being a public employee making a false report. Labelle, 39, has pleaded not guilty to charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery, falsely reporting a crime, misleading a judge and misleading a clerk.

Cebula's cross-examination is expected to continue Monday, when the trial resumes.

The case is being heard before Judge John Agostini. Labelle is represented by attorney Timothy Burke.

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@berkshireeagle.com, at @BobDunn413 on Twitter and 413-496-6249.


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