Andrea Harrington, next Berkshire DA, names first assistant, transition chairman

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PITTSFIELD — District Attorney-elect Andrea Harrington has selected longtime Hampden County prosecutor Karen Bell as her first assistant district attorney.

And retired Supreme Judicial Court Judge Francis X. Spina will lead the transition team for the office.

"Right now our top priority is ensuring that the important work that is ongoing at the District Attorney's Office continued uninterrupted," she told The Eagle. "Part of that is making sure I have a strong team in place ready to go on Jan 2."

Harrington, the Democratic nominee who fended off a write-in campaign by Berkshire District Attorney Paul Caccaviello on Nov. 6, made those announcements on Wednesday as she looks ahead to taking over the office next year. Harrington and Spina are expected to announce a full transition team after Thanksgiving.

Bell has spent 20 years as assistant district attorney in Hampden County, having worked in all areas of prosecution including the appellate division, District Court division, grand jury, and the Superior Court division. She has prosecuted thousands of cases and most recently served as a member of the Hampden DA's Superior Court Homicide Unit, according to a statement from Harrington.

Like Harrington, Bell will be the first woman to hold her title in Berkshire County.

Spina, who also lives in Richmond, was the second assistant district attorney under Anthony Ruberto, the county's first DA, in 1978, and worked on his transition into the office, which had previously been part of the Hampden District.

At that time, he and Ruberto's first assistant traveled the state to learn about how other district offices are run, and worked to implement successful ideas locally, Spina has said.

Spina went on to work as a Superior Court judge and Massachusetts Appeals Court judge before ascending to the state's highest court.

"I am proud of the experienced and visionary team we are building to help shape the District Attorney's Office," Harrington said in her announcement. "Incoming First Assistant Karen Bell and transition chair Francis Spina bring decades of courtroom experience to the the team, and Paul Caccaviello has been an incredible resource throughout the process."

These announcements come in what Harrington considers "phase one" of the transition. Phase two will be focused on increased community outreach, Harrington said.

Currently, Harrington is exploring the office model that Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan has in place.

Instead of hiring a second assistant district attorney, Sullivan has a deputy district attorney who focuses on outreach, domestic violence and district court matters. Harrington said. This would allow the first assistant district attorney to focus her attention on supervising the Superior Court.

Harrington's goal is to run an office that enhances public safety in the community, in addition to prosecuting cases in court.

"Were looking at a structure that is going to support that mission," she said.

Harrington first reached out to Bell and Spina after the primary about their prospective roles, but those talks had to be put on hold when Caccaviello announced his write-in campaign.

She was introduced to Bell by her current employer, attorney Jeffrey Morneau, who identified the Hampden ADA as a successful prosecutor.

Spina, she said, will help facilitate a smooth transition into an office he helped create.

"He's an amazing resource and a great mentor," she said. "I can't even tell you how lucky I am to have his expertise."

After the contentious campaign season came to an end last week, Caccaviello and Harrington have met and spoken several times to begin the transition.

"Andrea and I have been working closely to establish a process that will ensure a seamless transition into the District Attorney's Office," Caccaviello said in a written statement. "In the months ahead, Andrea and I will further this collaboration so that the criminal justice system in Berkshire County continues to do what matters most to us both — putting the safety of our residents first."

Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at horecchio@berkshireeagle.com, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.


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