Pittsfield man found not guilty in armed home invasion

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PITTSFIELD — A city man has been found not guilty of a 2016 home invasion and armed assault.

Damien Armstrong, 20, was accused of breaking into an Onota Street with two juveniles — all were wearing masks — in December 2016, threatening the resident with a realistic-looking BB pistol, and ransacking the place.

But after deliberating for about 30 minutes, a Berkshire Superior Court jury acquitted him of the charges on Monday. He was facing 20 years to life in prison if convicted.

During the trial, Armstrong's attorney, Timothy Shugrue, said his client and two juveniles charged in the case were mistakenly identified.

He noted none of the suspects had the winter coats or gloves described by the victim, and while there were three masks in the trunk of their car, they were a different type and made from a different material.

The suspects also did not have the items that were reported stolen when they were arrested.

"They have the wrong people," Shugrue said.

Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Joseph Yorlano said Armstrong must be the "unluckiest individual in the world" to have been picked up by police investigating a robbery committed by three people wielding guns and wearing masks, while three BB guns, one of which matched the description given by the victim, were found in the car along with the three masks.

Armstrong and the two others were found by police in a car parked at the Onota Lake boat ramp within an hour of the robbery, and within a mile of the scene, on a night there were few, if any, other people out, due to the frigid temperatures, Yorlano said.

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He said there was plenty of time for the trio to ditch the clothes and stolen items before police found them in the car.

Yorlano noted the victim only had about 20 seconds in a dark room — with a gun in his face — to observe what the suspects were wearing, so it's no surprise his descriptions of the clothing and masks did not match those found on the suspects.

He said that victim, however, did give an accurate description of the gun that was pointed at him. A BB gun matching that description was found in Armstrong's car. Armstrong testified he and his friends use the guns to target shoot.

"Footprints found at the scene excluded Mr. Armstong's footwear as the source of the impressions." Shugrue said Monday in a prepared statement. "No fingerprints or DNA were found at the scene."

Testimony in the trial began Wednesday and closing arguments concluded about 11 a.m. Monday.

The trial had been scheduled to begin April 22 with jury selection, but that was rescheduled to Wednesday after what Shugrue said was late production of evidence from the DA's office of the footprint evidence that excluded Armstong's sneakers.

"Mr. Armstrong's friends and family supported him throughout this ordeal," Shugrue said.

The status of the juveniles' cases could not be learned.

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


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