DA response to controversy over 2016 sexual assault case raises more questions
On Thursday afternoon, Berkshire County District Attorney Paul Caccaviello commented on yesterday’s reporting at The Greylock Glass on his office’s involvement in the mishandling of sexual assault evidence in a 2016 alleged rape case at Williams College.
NOTE: Be sure to read part one of this story here.
“This was a 2 month long investigation by the Williamstown PD which involved interviewing 23 witnesses,” said Caccaviello in his statement. “After reviewing statements of those involved and witnesses, experienced prosecutors and law enforcement concluded there was not a reasonable basis to bring a criminal charge.”
Caccaviello told the Glass that his office and the Williamstown Police Department kept the evidence in the case until it was requested by Pucci.
“Nonetheless, the police department retained the evidence in this non-criminal matter until Attorney Pucci – the attorney for the reporting party – requested that all the evidence be turned over to his investigators,” Caccaviello said. “That was done in April of 2017.”
However, emails between the DA’s office and the WPD show that, rather than Pucci being the instigator, it was the department that told Pucci he had to come get the evidence as the police would not hold it for him.
Though Caccaviello himself does not appear to have been directly involved in the decision, Assistant District Attorney Greg Barry had previously signed off on the department releasing the alleged sexual assault evidence in December 2016.
Sergeant Scott McGowan, in an email dated January 8, 2017, that included ADA Barry as one of the recipients, told Pucci that the evidence would no longer be kept at the station once it was returned from the crime lab.
“The Williamstown Police Department will no longer be responsible for the storage, care or making available this property to independent third parties as it is no longer considered evidence of a criminal investigation,” wrote McGowan. “The Williamstown Police Department will assist you or [Jane Doe] in recovering this property as soon as it is returned to us.”
As the Glass reported yesterday, this was in violation of statute:
Chapter 295 of the Acts of 2016, signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker, changed Mass. General Law Chapter 41, Section 97B, to forbid law enforcement from disposing of physical evidence related to accusations of rape for the 15 years stipulated by the statute of limitations for the crime, “whether or not that crime has been charged.”
“This act shall apply to all forensic evidence collected and retained for its potential evidentiary value in the investigation of a rape or sexual assault,” reads the law’s final passage, “including any such forensic evidence collected and retained before the effective date [January 17, 2017] of this act.”
Neither the DA’s office nor Caccaviello replied to follow up on the January email by press time.
Spokesman Fred Lantz told the Glass that “Williamstown PD has a list signed by the investigators of all items turned over to Attorney Pucci’s investigators in April 2017.”
He did not return a request for comment on the details of the email.
Eoin Higgins is a writer and historian from western Massachusetts. He would welcome an e-mail from you. If, however, you have confidential or sensitive information to pass along, please visit our Contact Page to learn about more secure options.