Man found guilty of assault in child abuse case

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PITTSFIELD — A Berkshire Superior Court jury found a Clarksburg man guilty on Thursday of assault and battery and two counts of endangering a child.

Duane Griffiths, 35, was acquitted of six more serious assault charges.

"We're grateful for the jury's hard work on this case," said his attorney, Edward St. John IV. "These were difficult charges. Clearly they spent a lot of time going through them and evaluating all of the evidence."

Griffiths said he used physical discipline in order to correct misbehavior and to make sure the children under his care were well-behaved in public.

Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Megan Tesoniero, however, argued that Griffiths' actions went far beyond what is considered reasonable physical discipline.

She told jurors Wednesday during her closing argument that his methods included choking, punching and slapping two children, hitting them with a wooden spoon and spatula, and beating one with a belt hard enough to leave welts and bruises.

The incident occurred on Feb. 16, 2017.

St. John argued that while it might be distasteful to some, the level of physical discipline imposed by Griffiths was reasonable and permitted under the law. Griffiths took the stand in his own defense Wednesday and said a child should have a "healthy fear" of their parents.

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Tesoniero also disputed Griffiths' claims that he imposed some level of physical discipline because he wanted the children to respect adults by noting that one of the children accuses Griffiths of beating them because of bringing home a grade of less than an A.

In other alleged instances, the children didn't know why they were beaten by Griffiths.

St. John noted that Griffiths denied many of the claims against him and that one of the victims who testified described their relationship with Griffiths as being one of "tough love."

St. John said the implementation of physical discipline was not a random occurrence but only used after other methods, like taking away access to things like toys and video games, failed, and even then only used to prevent future misconduct.

Tesoniero said photographs of one of the children's injuries, a corresponding medical report and school records, showing four consecutive days of unexcused absences, allegedly due to visible injuries left by Griffiths, corroborate the victims' accounts.

Griffiths' sentencing is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday. St. John said Thursday night that he wasn't yet sure what sentencing he'd request of the judge.

Haven Orecchio-Egresitz contributed to this report.

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


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