Pittsfield man avoids jail time after admitting to lighting pile of shoes on fire

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PITTSFIELD — A city man who admitted to setting fire to shoes outside an apartment last April will avoid jail if he stays clear of trouble and meets his probation conditions over the next year and a half.

Nicholas R. Leonard, 25, told police he poured lighter fluid on several pairs of shoes outside a fifth-floor apartment before setting them on fire about 6:12 a.m. April 14, 2018, according to a police report. He said he discarded his gloves, sweatshirt and the lighter fluid in trash receptacles outside the building.

Leonard said he started the fire over an ongoing dispute with a man who sometimes stayed in the apartment he targeted.

A review of surveillance video identified Leonard as the suspect.

He told police he had done something wrong and wanted to own up to it, and said he would accept whatever the consequences were.

Leonard admitted in Central Berkshire District Court on Tuesday to sufficient facts supporting a charge of burning personal property.

Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Amy Winston said the joint sentencing recommendation was based on Leonard's lack of criminal record and the results of a court-ordered mental health evaluation.

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Winston acknowledged the "horrible direction" the incident could have taken if the fire had spread before being detected.

"[The fire] could have gotten out of hand very quickly," said Leonard's attorney, Marc C. Vincelette. "We're grateful it didn't."

Vincelette said his client was feeling hopeless at the time he set the fire, but he is benefiting from counseling.

Judge Mark J. Pasquariello accepted the recommendation, but added a condition of no alcohol and random screenings for Leonard. There was no objection to the additional requirement.

Leonard's case was continued without a finding for 18 months. Provided that he remains out of further legal trouble during that time, the charge will be dismissed.

A district court conviction on a charge of burning personal property carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail.

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


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