Murder charge dropped against one suspect in Asiyanna Jones killing
PITTSFIELD — Multiple charges, including murder, have been dropped in the case of a city woman indicted in the October 2017 shooting death of Asiyanna Jones.
Carey Pilot, who had been held without bail since March 2018, remains held on $2,500 bail on an open drug trafficking and weapons case; prosecutors Wednesday argued unsuccessfully to have that amount raised to $50,000.
The decision to drop the charges — two counts of armed assault to murder and one count of murder — came in lieu of a scheduled hearing in Berkshire Superior Court on a defense motion arguing for a dismissal.
Pilot's attorney in the murder case, Jennifer Cox, filed a motion to dismiss last month, alleging that prosecutors gave "false or deceptive evidence" and flawed instructions to the grand jury that handed up the indictments against Pilot.
Prosecutors said they intend to resubmit the case to a grand jury in an attempt to secure a new indictment.
Pilot was among three people charged in the October 2017 shooting on Dewey Avenue that led to Jones' death. Prosecutors believe Pilot set off a shootout that night when she opened fire toward two people with whom she had been in a fight that day.
Jones, who was in a parked car, was struck in the head by a bullet and died hours later.
Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington said Wednesday she was unable to comment on the case.
Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Joseph Yorlano, who is prosecuting Pilot's open case, asked Judge Mark Mason to increase her bail. He argued that Pilot is a flight risk because she is aware the state intends to seek a new indictment.
Lee Flournoy, who represents Pilot in the open case, objected to the increase, noting the $2,500 bail amount was set before her client was indicted and arraigned on the murder charge, and the change in circumstances in the case did not warrant such an increase.
Mason agreed, noting that he could not raise Pilot's bail merely on the suspicion she might be a flight risk in the face of charges on which she has yet to be indicted. He ordered that if Pilot posts bail, she must remain under house arrest and submit to GPS monitoring.
Several people, including Jones' mother, Shanay Jones, abruptly left after that ruling. A few moments later, commotion outside the courthouse prompted the brief clearing of the courtroom and a response from Pittsfield Police, who cleared the scene within a few minutes.
Reached by phone later, Shanay Jones told The Eagle she was aware that Pilot's charges were going to be dropped but did not expect her bail to remain at $2,500. In her argument to leave the existing bail in place, Flournoy said her client was making productive use of her time while in custody and availing herself of programs and counseling.
"Nobody cares," Jones said. "Somebody died. Nobody cares about a certificate you earned in jail," she said, adding that she found it "absolutely sad and sickening" that Pilot was being portrayed in Flournoy's argument as some kind of victim.
Jones has been highly critical of how her daughter's case was handled by the office of former Berkshire District Attorney David Capeless.
"The prior administration literally botched my daughter's case from the beginning," she said.
The 21-page motion to dismiss the indictment did not name a specific prosecutor, but it says the "District Attorney" gave preliminary instructions to the grand jury and that a "prosecutor" selected "portions of the jury instruction for each crime that supported his theory of the case," instead of a more thorough instruction so the grand jury could make an impartial decision.
The Berkshire District Attorney at the time was Paul Caccaviello, who had taken over the office after Capeless retired.
Jones said she didn't lay the blame at the feet of special prosecutor Brett Vottero for the decision to drop charges, saying he had to work with the hand he was dealt.
She said she believes the state will be able to get a new indictment after Pilot's case is brought back before a grand jury.
In February, Vottero, who was hired as a special prosecutor to handle the three cases connected to Jones' death, and one unrelated homicide case, successfully argued to keep Pilot held without the right to bail.
At that hearing, Cox argued that Pilot should be released on personal recognizance with the condition that she stay at a residential treatment program, and an added condition of GPS monitoring.
But Vottero said that while there might be a case for releasing a defendant who is facing a murder charge, "This is neither the case nor the defendant."
The cases against her former co-defendants, Gary Linen and Josiah Bynum, remain open, though a motion on a hearing to dismiss charges in Linen's case is scheduled for June 6.
In February, the DA's office dropped a murder charge in a separate case against James Cromartie in the 2016 shooting death of James Dominguez.
The decision to drop that charge stemmed from issues surrounding the reliability from a purported witness, who later was charged with perjury. That perjury charge against Christopher Davis eventually was dismissed, though, after a successful motion to suppress statements Davis made to police.
Bob Dunn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @BobDunn413 on Twitter and 413-496-6249.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.