Pittsfield man accused of firearm offenses held without bail

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PITTSFIELD — A city man was ordered held without bail for 180 days Tuesday amid concerns regarding his previous record, including a manslaughter conviction as a juvenile and new charges alleging that he was carrying a loaded weapon and fought with police during his arrest.

Andre A. Austin, 32, is expected to go to trial on his charges, including carrying a loaded firearm without a license, resisting arrest and committing a firearms violation with a prior violent or drug crime conviction.

If convicted, Austin faces 10 years in state prison.

His attorney, Ryan Smith, sought to have Judge Daniel Ford deny the state's motion to have Austin held without bail as dangerous, noting that he is charged with possession of a gun, and not with using one in an assaultive or violent manner.

Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Jedd L. Hall brought up Austin's criminal record, including previous convictions for drug and weapons charges as well as the manslaughter conviction.

Smith noted that Austin was convicted as a youthful offender in that case as one of a large group of co-defendants involved in a brawl during which one person died as a result of injuries suffered after being struck by a blunt object. Austin did not land the fatal blow, Smith said.

Smith called a witness to the dangerousness hearing in Berkshire Superior Court who testified that, over the eight years she has known Austin, she has never known him to be aggressive or violent and said he has been a positive influence in her son's life.

"He's a really calm character," she said, adding that she had never seen Austin in possession of a gun.

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Austin was arrested Feb. 11, after police received a report of a man carrying a handgun in the area of Tyler Street. Police spotted Austin, who they said matched the given description, and asked him to show his hands. According to police, Austin instead ran from officers, who then gave chase.

At one point, according to Hall, Austin pulled out the revolver, which, he said, was loaded with three rounds, one of which was ready to be fired. Austin dropped the gun and was tackled by police. During the struggle, Austin allegedly reached for the discarded weapon, Hall said.

Smith said he plans on filing a motion to suppress evidence in the case.

Smith noted that Austin's original bail after his arrest was $2,500, which was posted. Austin appeared as scheduled for his arraignment in Central Berkshire District Court as evidence that he could comply with court orders, and Smith suggested that he be released with GPS monitoring and drug screens on that already posted bail.

Ford said he was concerned about Austin's previous convictions and the struggle with police during the arrest and allowed the state's motion to have him held without the right to bail.

Austin has pleaded not guilty to charges of possession of a firearm and ammunition, both without a firearms identification card; disorderly conduct; resisting arrest; receiving stolen property under $1,200; carrying a loaded firearm without a license; and possession of a firearm with one prior violent or drug crime conviction.

The case is scheduled to go to trial in September.

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


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