January trial set in Williamstown hit-and-run that left woman comatose
PITTSFIELD — A Williamstown couple will face trial next month on charges they misled police after a hit-and-run crash that left a woman in a coma, but a charge of conspiracy to defraud the insurance company has been dropped.
Sally Gould, 73, is accused leaving the scene after allegedly striking Cheryl LeClaire, who was walking her dog on North Hoosac Road, about 6:15 p.m., Feb. 9, 2016. A passing motorist found LeClaire, 54, unresponsive in the road about 6:30 p.m. LeClaire remains in a coma.
Based on debris recovered from the scene, investigators determined the vehicle that struck LeClaire was a Honda, and police asked for the public's help in locating the vehicle, which would likely have heavy damage to the passenger-side bumper. About a week later, Williamstown Police received a tip from a neighbor that the Goulds' 2014 Honda appeared to have damage to its hood and passenger-side bumper.
Sally Gould and her husband, John Gould, 70, denied being involved in the accident. They were arraigned in June after being indicted by a Berkshire County grand jury.
Both are facing charges of misleading a police officer and conspiracy to mislead a police officer; Sally Gould also is charged with leaving the scene of a personal injury accident.
A tentative trial date of Jan. 16 was set Wednesday following a brief hearing in Berkshire Superior Court before Judge Daniel Ford.
During a hearing in late November, Judge John Agostini dismissed charges alleging the couple conspired to file false insurance claims regarding damage to the vehicle.
The couple's respective attorneys — Lori Levinson, representing John Gould, and David Hoose, representing Sally Gould — argued the grand jury heard insufficient evidence they conspired to file a false insurance claim and actually did so.
In Agostini's decision, he noted that on Feb. 10, 2016, John Gould reported a broken windshield on his wife's vehicle to the insurance company.
"(John Gould) did not need to say how the damage happened, nor was he required to sign any paperwork to process the claim," Agostini's Nov. 22 decision reads. A separate claim was made regarding body damage to the vehicle.
Police were told the damage occurred while the vehicle was parked.
Agostini noted there was not evidence to show the Goulds provided false information to the insurance company in an attempt to defraud the insurance company.
Even if the Goulds lied to the insurance company about the cause of the damage, Agostini ruled, it would be a moot point because, according to their policy, they would have been compensated, regardless of the cause.
"Any misrepresentation regarding the cause of the damage `obtained nothing in value which (they) would not be entitled to as of right,' " he ruled, citing existing case law.
In dismissing the conspiracy counts, Agostini said there was no evidence the couple worked together to file a false insurance claim because there was a lack of evidence the claims themselves were criminal or unlawful.
Reach Bob Dunn at email@example.com, at @BobDunn413 on Twitter and 413-496-6249.
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