Clarksburg man on trial for allegedly assaulting boy over school troubles

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PITTSFIELD — Discipline or assault?

That will be the question jurors will face in the case of Duane Griffiths, who prosecutors say beat a 13-year-old boy with a wooden spoon, a spatula and a leather belt.

Griffiths, 35, of Clarksburg, is on trial in Berkshire Superior Court on multiple assault charges related to an incident from Feb. 16, 2017.

During her opening statement Tuesday, Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Megan Tesoniero told jurors that Griffiths slapped and punched the boy after he learned about some trouble the child had gotten into in school that day.

"Duane Griffiths needs to be in control," Tesoniero said, accusing Griffiths of sending a text after learning that the victim had disclosed abuse allegations, stating, "No kid is going to control my house."

But Griffiths' attorney, Edmund St. John IV, argued that the incident was a matter of physical discipline, and suggested that the boy might have exaggerated or fabricated parts of his account.

St. John disputed Tesoniero's assertion that Griffiths was motivated by his need to be in control, and said instead that supporting his family was his motivation. He asked jurors to keep an open mind until all of the evidence was in.

"Discipline is never an easy subject to talk about," he said.

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Tesoniero said Griffiths, who was informed of some trouble involving the victim at his school on the day of the incident, responded by slapping, punching and beating the child with cooking tools and a leather belt, leaving welts and bruises across his back.

The injuries were noticed the next morning at the child's school, and police were notified.

The boy, who was the state's first witness, said it wasn't the first time Griffiths assaulted him. Once, he said, Griffiths choked him to the point he passed out, in addition to slapping and punching him and hitting him with a belt.

The victim, now 15, said he had to stay home from school for two days after that beating, because some of his injuries were visible.

But he was unable to recall some of the details of those alleged assaults, including things Griffiths might have said during the incidents.

St. John did not cross-examine the boy.

Griffiths has pleaded not guilty to three counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, two counts each of assault and battery on a child causing injury, and reckless endangerment of a child.

Testimony in the trial is expected to continue Wednesday.

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


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