Sentencing again delayed for Pittsfield officer convicted of assault

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PITTSFIELD — The sentencing hearing for Pittsfield Police Officer Michael McHugh, who was convicted last month in connection with a 2016 assault, has been rescheduled to Dec. 20, according to the Berkshire Superior Court Clerk's office.

McHugh and his friend, Jason LaBelle, were convicted Nov. 27 in the case and were originally set to be sentenced on Dec. 3. That was then moved to Dec. 6, but the hearing had to be pushed back to Dec. 20 because Judge John Agostini, who presided over the two-week trial, was not available.

After about 20 hours of deliberation, McHugh was convicted of assault and battery, filing a false police report and misleading police. LaBelle, 39, was convicted of filing a false criminal report, misleading a clerk and misleading a judge.

Both men were each acquitted of one count of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. LaBelle was also found not guilty of one count of assault and battery.

The victim in the case, Michael Cebula, is LaBelle's estranged father in-law and was left with seven fractured ribs and a fractured vertebra after the assault. He was hospitalized for over a week for treatment of those injuries.

Defense attorneys for the pair argued LaBelle and his family were in fear of Cebula, 57, who they said was exhibiting concerning behavior, and McHugh, who was off-duty from Pittsfield Police Department that night, acted properly when he took Cebula into custody on suspicion of driving while intoxicated on July 4, 2016.

Attorneys Timothy Shugrue and Timothy Burke, representing McHugh and LaBelle, respectively, argued the indictments were the result of Cebula's perjured testimony about how much he had to drink that day and, due to his level of intoxication, Cebula's recollection of that night's events was unreliable.

McHugh, 45, was placed on unpaid suspension from the department after he was indicted. His job status remains unchanged, pending further action, according to Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn.

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

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