Caccaviello takes reins as district attorney

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STEPHANIE ZOLLSHAN — THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE
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PITTSFIELD — For the first time in 14 years, Berkshire County has a new chief prosecutor.

Paul J. Caccaviello was sworn in Thursday to replace outgoing District Attorney David F. Capeless, who, two weeks ago, announced his intention to retire.

After the oath, administered by Judge John Agostini in a 30-minute ceremony in Berkshire Superior Court, Caccaviello thanked those in attendance and those he has worked with over his 28-year career as a prosecutor, the past 14 of which he served as first assistant district attorney under Capeless.

Caccaviello, 53, also thanked his wife, Karen, and daughter, Grace, "who are in front of me today, but behind me every day," he said.

He thanked "the now retired" Capeless for his decades of service, as well as the other district attorneys who preceded him.

Caccaviello said his predecessors all had different styles and attributes, but all shared a selfless dedication to serve the public and communities of Berkshire County.

"True justice is when we, as prosecutors, dispassionately seek the truth," he said.

"As prosecutors, we must stand tall in the face of criticism but always be willing to listen and adjust as needed, and this transition creates an opportunity to do that," he said.

Caccaviello said he was honored and humbled to be able to maintain the continuity of service for the county from Capeless' tenure to his own.

"Not just for the immediate future," he said. "But, beyond that."

The midterm appointment of Caccaviello drew fire from some, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, which felt that the move gives him a leg up on any potential opponents in the upcoming November elections.

Berkshire County Sheriff Thomas Bowler opened the ceremony and thanked Capeless for his service.

Bowler called Capeless "a true advocate for the victims and their families in this community."

"I, and many others, are filled with sadness that you are leaving," Bowler said.

Capeless made some brief remarks before Caccaviello was officially sworn in.

"I realize you're not here for me," Capeless said. "But please allow me a few moments, one last time, to publicly say thank you to all of those who have made the past 35 years not only successful, but meaningful and gratifying.

"I have been blessed to have a career I love," Capeless said.

Capeless, 65, was appointed as district attorney in 2004, after the death of Gerard D. Downing. He won a special election for the seat that fall and won elections for three more four-year terms after that.

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Caccaviello said he once prosecuted a defendant who was convicted and sent to jail. The woman later developed medical issues and asked to be released to get treatment that wasn't otherwise available.

"The first thing that occurred to me was that allowing that to happen was the right thing to do," he said.

Years later, he saw the same woman while he was walking outside with his daughter, Grace. The woman told the girl that "her dad saves lives."

"She was in a much better place in life, and I had a small part in that," he said.

After the ceremony, Grace Caccaviello said hearing that story again made her emotional.

"I'll never forget it," she said. "Hearing that, I'm so proud of him. I'll never forget that moment."

Caccaviello said "Compassion and consequence are not mutually independent concepts. They're two sides of the same coin."

"Compassion where appropriate; consequences when called for," he said. "Under my administration, each case will continue to be looked at in a way that acknowledges and respects both."

He said his administration will continue the work begun under Capeless in areas such as community outreach and education and the fight against the opioid epidemic.

"Those efforts will, of course, continue, as they must," Caccaviello said.

Caccaviello's wife, Karen, said "(Paul) works very hard; he's been there 28 years, he's earned it."

"We're very proud of him," she said. "It's a big day."

Caccaviello is a 1982 graduate of Pittsfield High School and graduated from the Western New England School of Law in Springfield in 1989.

After graduation, he was hired as an assistant district attorney by then-District Attorney Anthony J. Ruberto Jr., and continued to serve as an assistant district attorney under Robert J. Carnes, Downing and Capeless.

In 2008, Caccaviello was named prosecutor of the year by the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, for the prosecution of Damien Lamb, convicted of a 2005 murder in which the body was never found.

He was also recognized by the National Crime Victims' Rights Week event for his prosecution of Father Gary Mercure, a former Catholic priest convicted of sexual assaults from 20 years earlier, and served as co-counsel in the prosecution of Adam Hall, David Chalue and Caius Veiovis, convicted of a 2011 triple murder. He was recognized for those efforts by the International Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Investigators Association. Capeless was lead counsel in those cases.

"Be assured, the good work of this office will continue," Caccaviello said.

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


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