Thursday, July 31, 2014

MCAD Complaint Filed Against ARPS

ARHS: at peace on a summer day

So yes the NY Times probably would not use that headline without "on the record" corroboration from at least two reliable sources.

My two reliable sources divulged the information "off the record".  And if that was all I had, you would not now be reading this.

But ARPS did react to my public documents request in such a way as to confirm (sort of) that a "complaint" has been filed. 

Now if the Schools had a clever PR flack they would have responded, "We can neither confirm nor deny the existence of such a document, but feel free to take it up with Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination directly.  Good luck with that!" 

Naturally MCAD public documents folks are right up there with the Registry of Motor Vehicles when it comes to responsive service.  As of today I have not heard back from my 7/15 written request or numerous phone messages. 

Yes, Massachusetts Public Documents Law does require some sort of official response within 10 days, not that the Attorney General is going to want to mess with MCAD.

I have confirmed that the suit is not from the Akalis family seeking retribution over the terrible treatment of their son Dylan or the absurd firing of his dad, Steve.

Could be the family of the white youth who was "aggressively and seriously assaulted" by black students sometime last spring, but since they did not want APD to know about or investigate the assault, not overly likely.

Let the speculation begin ...

The Amherst Pelham Regional School Committee went into Executive Session at their circus-like  6/24 meeting to discuss strategy to deal with MCAD complaint

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Blarney Blowback

Jared Dawon, age 21, stands before Eastern Hampshire District Court Judge David Ross

In a last second change of heart Jared Dawson, a senior at UMass, decided not to take chances with a jury this morning on the serious charge of "assault and battery on a police officer" during the infamous March 8 Blarney Blowout, where thousands of out-of-control college aged youth disrupted the entire town of Amherst.

Assistant District Attorney Bob Obsitnick told the Judge that Dawson was front and center of a large crowd that was being "volatile, aggressive and destructive."

Amherst and UMass police were trying to push a crowd of 3,000 from Brandywine Apartments/Puffton Village back towards the center of the campus just after noon on March 8th.

Dawson refused to disperse and was "hovering" while flipping officers the middle finger and yelling "Fuck you!"  This unruly behavior only served to incite further the immediate crowd around him.

He was hit with a one second burst of OC spray from 4 feet away and wrestled to the ground where he then assaulted an officer with a "meaningful kick."

His lawyer admitted that his client's conduct "was disorderly" and that the Blarney Blowout was a "black mark for the town and University" but Dawson has no prior record, works for his Dad, and is willing to do community service.

Judge Ross paused, then looked directly at Dawson saying, "The difficulty with these cases is with that many intoxicated people there's a real public danger.  Disorderly conduct has a whole different meaning in that context."

The Judge then said he would accept the plea but, "I don't want to underplay the significance of what you got involved in."  So he added an extra provision to the standard "letter of apology".

Judge Ross ordered the defendant to apologize in person to the officers involved and to write TWO letters for publication:  one to the Amherst Bulletin, apologizing to the entire town and the other to the UMass Daily Collegian to inform fellow students of the "consequences of this kind of behavior."

In addition Jarad Dawson was placed on probation for six months (with a $65/month charge), ordered to perform 20 hours of community service, pay $200 in restitution to APD, and a $50 witness protection fee.

At the conclusion of the hearing, out in the hallway, with his brothers and father alongside him, Dawson apologized and shook hands with the three members of APD who had come to Court ready to testify at trial. 


According to DA's office, Blarney Blowout tally sheet as of July 7:

To date, there have been no jail sentences. 

There was a total of 60 cases, 20% (12 cases) of those are completely closed, 67% (40 cases) are still on probation, and 13% (8 cases) are still open and have PTH dates set.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sleeping Beauty

 Pugnacious Brandon Borghi, age 19, stands before Judge John Payne

In response to APD charges of assaulting officers (two), resisting arrest  and having a fake ID,  Brandon Borghi plead "not guilty" yesterday in Eastern Hampshire District Court.  Judge Payne continued his case until August 19, where he will be back in Court with his private attorney.

All in all, an expensive night/morning out in downtown Amherst.

I Fought The Law

 Yeshaq Warren, in chains, is sworn in before Judge John Payne

Yeshaq Warren is back on the streets he calls home (alternating between Amherst and Northampton streets) after Judge Payne denied a 58A, too-dangerous-to release, request from the District Attorney's office in the most recent incident of allegedly pulling a knife on a senior citizen in downtown Amherst.

Mr. Warren is what is known as a "frequent flyer" in cop lingo, arrested innumerable times over the past few years. 

During the hearing two Amherst police officers testified about the most recent Amherst incident where Warren is alleged to have assaulted William Lovett, a senior citizen who lives near the Bangs Center where the alleged assault occurred.

But under cross examination by Amherst Attorney Daniel Sandell, one of the officers acknowledged Mr. Lovett was not wounded and no knife was recovered.

The officers further testified that only one 911 call was made, while about 20-30 people were present at the Bangs Center around the time of the alleged incident, and no other witnesses came forward to corroborate the attack.

Mr. Lovett was a problematic witness as he had trouble answering the very first question put to him by the ADA, "How old are you?".  

The 58A would have allowed the Commonwealth to keep Yeshaq Warren locked up without opportunity for bail, for 90 days. But at least there were "conditions":

Remain out of Amherst, stay away from Bangs Center, no contact with William Lovett, curfew from 9:00 PM until 6:00 AM, report to Probation Department once per week, no drugs or alcohol (with screening to ensure.)

DUI Dishonor Roll

Yesterday in Eastern Hampshire District Court Jovany Rodriguez, age 25, had a plea of "not guilty" entered in his behalf by Judge John Payne, who continued his DUI case until August 13. 

 Jovany Rodriguez stands before Judge John Payne

Mr. Rodriguez will hire his own attorney, but since it's his first offense and he was inexperienced enough to take the official (legally admissible) breath test back at APD headquarters, chances are he will settle for the standard 24D disposition.

Monday, July 28, 2014

You Can Run But ...

 Zane Linehan (center) will be free on $500 bail

In this day and age when almost everyone has instant access to communication you have to be pretty stupid to rob an outdoor farm stand, in broad daylight, on a fairly well traveled street, in a close-knit community like Hadley.

That, or you have substance abuse problems.

In Eastern Hampshire District Court this morning Judge John Payne allowed a Section 35 addiction treatment commitment (90 days) for Daniel Bartusewich, age 31, aka "Ras Fire" (the Judge did not acknowledge the recent name change saying, "What is this, a comic book?"). 

His companion in crime, Zane Linehan, age 20, addressed the Judge saying he had  "enjoyed 1.5 years of being sober, but now drugs are destroying me."  His mother was said to be enroute and would be filing for a Section 35 addiction treatment commitment as well for Mr. Linehan.

The DA's office wanted bail revoked and for Lineham to stay in jail so he couldn't "continue to go on a spree."  Only the day before the Hadley theft Lineham had been arraigned in Holyoke District Court on another criminal matter.

The Judge set bail at $500.  

A neighbor of the farm stand called in the theft as it was occurring and gave Hadley police a good description of the car (with front end damage) including three digits of the license plate.

Within 10 minutes HPD had the vehicle, and in the center console they found $57 in wrinkled cash with only one $5 bill and all the rest $1 dollar bills.

The kind of thing you would expect to find in a farm stand cash box.

Farm stands:  A way of life in Hadley

Hiring Priorities

So the town can afford to bring in a part time "climate communications specialist" at $48,000 per year  to keep the KKK at bay, but we can't afford to hire a full time police officer at $41,500?

The Amherst Police Department has lost five sworn position (patrol officers) since 2007 when they were at 52.   Today they are at 47 sworn positions, compared to Umass police department with 62 sworn officers.  And UMPD starting pay for a sworn officer --  $45,813 -- is a tad better.  Differences worth swearing about!

 Town Manager Musante stated in his "Long Term Staffing Plans Recommendations":

Of course what the Town Manager fails to mention is APD is losing a "crime analyst" position after two years of state grant funding.  And part of her job assignment was to provide police administration with facts and figures that would lead to "problem-oriented policing with sector-based assignments."

To make matters worse, a 2-year-old federal grant that funded a Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault investigator will not be renewed at previous funding levels, so the officer (Detective Lopez) will be reabsorbed back into routine police duties.

The new officer hired to backfill her position over the past two years will not be laid off, but after the next retirement or resignation the position will not be filled.

Sounds complicated, but the net result is APD loses yet another sworn position.

So even if the Regional Dispatch saves enough money next year to hire 1 sworn police officer, that simply brings us back to where we are today.

Which is w-a-y too low.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Run For Your (Business) Lives

5 East Pleasant Street, Amherst

Yet another long-time business is abandoning ship over the upheaval caused by the pending $4.6 million sale of the Carriage Shops:  the law offices of Seewald, Jankowski & Spencer, P.C.

After 30 years of practicing law in their quaint, brick building -- that fronts the main drag through Amherst town center -- they will be relocating (in January) to University Drive near Amherst Brewing Company, another business who fled town center three years ago.

Amherst Carriage Shops:  On Death Row

The stand alone building is still part of the Carriage Shops, purchased from original developers Johnson & Gates as a business condo  back in 1985 by Robert Ritchie former Amherst Town Counsel.

Jerry Gates still owns 60% of the complex and has to convince 15% of the other condo owners to accept the $4.6 million offer from Archipelago Investments, LLC.   That local developer already built Boltwood Place, a five story mixed-use building in town center and recently broke ground on another, Kendrick Place, just a couple hundred yards north of the Carriage Shops. 

Meanwhile, in addition to the uncertainty caused by the pending sale, the surrounding area is said to be "going downhill".  According to Amherst Police records the calls for service to the next door Cousin's Market have more than doubled since they acquired a "All alcoholic Off-Premise Liquor License" back in May of 2011.

Cousin's Market and The Mercantile, adjacent to Carriage Shops

 Calls for APD service to Carriage Shops have decreased over the past few years

AFD & APD on scene Carriage Shops 7/21 for possible drug OD by 36-year-old male

Summerlin (11 E Pleasant)  and Piper Building (9 E. Pleasant)

Laird Summerlin confirmed the Summerlin Trust has NOT sold the Summerlin or Piper buildings, immediately adjacent to the Carriage Shops.  Good thing.  

Hate to see the Amherst Bulletin/Daily Hampshire Gazette have to relocate.

Friday, July 25, 2014

High Adventure

Adventure Rope Course at the top of The Notch
Hard to tell who had more fun, the 20 children taking part in the Amherst & UMass Police Adventure Academy or the half dozen officers who acted as counselors.

The one week program is a joint effort of the two public safety departments who share the same town, but have decidedly different beats.

The summer camp combined the cerebral aspects of police work with outdoor activities designed to promote teamwork and camaraderie.

But most of all it got police officers out of their uniforms and into a fun environment to interact with our children, fostering something you can't put a price on:  trust. 

UMPD officer Brian Kellogg (orange shirt) and APD officer Bill Laramee (grey hat) recover Kira 

Graduation Day:  Round of applause for the children and counselors

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Downtown Shuffle

The Mercantile, 11 East Pleasant Street, Amherst 

Well that didn't take long.

The former location of Food For Thought Books, a local institution that expired the first week of June, will host its first new business in 38 years.  But hardly a fledgling business.

The Mercantile is moving from their nearby location after 40+ years, citing the "upheaval" caused by the impending sale of the next door Carriage Shops.

108 North Pleasant Street

The adjacent Carriage Shops have been in flux since last winter when local hometown hero developers Archipelago Investments, LLC offered the original property (a motel) developer, Jerry Gates, the hefty sum of $4.6 million for the entire complex.

But Mr. Gates only owns 60% of the units, as the rest were individually sold as business condos. Numerous businesses have already relocated fearing the impending sale.

The Mercantile is not even part of the Carriage Shops, but still close enough to feel the "upheaval."

Amherst Carriage Shops, 233 North Pleasant Street, Amherst

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

When A Barn Is The View

134 Montague Road, North Amherst

View that is currently screened by historic barn

The post and beam barn situated between a historic old 1768 farmhouse and an about to be developed Mill District is indeed a notable fixture just on the outskirts of North Amherst Village Center.  And has been for well over 100 years.

The Amherst Historical Commission had no problem last night designating the barn a "significant structure," but they seem to agonize over the issuance of a one year demolition delay.  The vast majority of residents who attended the meeting had no such reservations, as they simply wanted the view maintained no matter what it cost W.D. Cowls.

Approximately 30% of Amherst's total land area is "permanently protected open space."  And over half the property in town is owned by tax-exempt institutions:  Amherst College, UMass and Hampshire College being the major players. 

Combine that with the well above average cost of our public schools and you have the top two reasons why Amherst has the areas highest property tax, which prices out the middle class.   

Only 10% of our tax base is commercial, so residential property is disproportionately relied upon to bring in tax revenues.  Saving this barn for one year only delays the process of turning that area into a "commercial" cash cow with the development of The Mill District.

In fact the Historical Commission placed a one year delay on the demolition of the the old Trolley Barn just across the street, and a few weeks after the expiration of that year it collapsed into a pile of timber.  Now that location is the site of a 12,000 square foot, multi-use building that will generate tens of thousands annually in property tax revenue.

 The Trolley Barn rising like a Phoenix from the ashes of a former trolley barn

In America, where property rights are paramount, the best way to ensure a neighbor doesn't do something you don't like to their property is to buy it.  Or move. 

Interesting that many of the same folks who attended this meeting to advocate in behalf of ye old barn tried to get Town Meeting to buy the "development rights" to W.D. Cowls other property further to the east to stop "The Retreat" student housing development.

Historical Commission meeting sign in sheet

And these NIMBYs will be pushing for a North Amherst "Local Historic District," which will erode even further the rights of private landowners to spruce up their castle. 

Cinda Jones setting next meeting date with Historical Commission

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Don't Tear Down This Barn!

Cowls barn, 134 Montague Road, North Amherst

After impassioned pleas by North Amherst neighbors with no vested interest other than visual, the Amherst Historical Commission voted unanimously (4 yes, 3 absent) to impose a "one year demolition delay" on W.D. Cowls, the largest private landowner in the state, doing business in the town of Amherst before there was a town of Amherst.

 Amherst Historical Commission

The barn sits immediately behind and looms over the Cowls family farmhouse -- built in 1768 -- which now serves as company headquarters.

 Cinda Jones failed to convince the Amherst Historical Commission to allow demolition

The barn is within spitting distance of the cow barn @ 113 Cowls Road that will be almost completely dismantled and rebuilt for the selling pleasure of Atkins Farms Country Market, a relative newcomer at just over 100 years of doing business in the far south end of town.

 Cow barn:  future home of Atkins Farms Country Market

 More than a dozen friendly neighbors showed up to oppose demolition

The cost to repair the barn for agricultural reuse approached $250,000, which would not provide a viable return on investment.  The current preferred plan is to donate the salvageable wood to the Emily Dickinson Homestead for an interpretive historically accurate barn raising on the property.

The one year delay does have an "escape clause" whereby the owner can come back in three or four months showing that there are no economically viable solutions to save the structure, and the delay could be lifted.

The Historical Commission seemed genuinely troubled over enacting the full delay, pointing out that Ms. Jones had already done many of the things an owner is expected to do AFTER the one year delay is imposed.  

Barn with 1 year stay of execution (left) Atkins new north location (right)


"Of All Places ..."

Fellow UMass journo -- and one of my favorite columnists -- Kevin Cullen seems to have run afoul of UMass cheerleaders with his latest column about a "stupid college kid" who made the grave mistake of aiding and abetting the current poster boy for satanic terrorists, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Three little words were spiked after initial publication.

Obviously when you talk about an uber rich guy sending his son to "elite schools" but then when it comes time for college sends him to "of all places" UMass Dartmouth, it kind of sends the message that it's not exactly the same as an "elite school."  Which of course it's not.

But you can't say that.   In the venerable Boston Globe.  Apparently.

Monday, July 21, 2014

When DUIs Converge

Heather Leupold, age 27,  arrested by Hadley PD last night Rt9/Rt116 intersection near Amherst town line

So if my weekly reports of drunk drivers arrested by Amherst Police all over our little town is not depressing enough for you, consider this past weekend Pelham and Hadley police also arrested impaired drivers who were only moments away from crossing the town line into Amherst.

 Seth Alison arrested by Pelham police for DUI on Saturday

Kind of like that level three sex offender arrested at Puffer's Pond earlier this month:  He was not one of our 24 registered sex offenders, as he lives in Southampton. 

And you wonder why I'm a fan of additional police officers (and firefighter/EMTs).


Amber Theriault stands before Judge Payne

Meanwhile, Judge Payne accepted a standard 24D plea deal (only available to 1st time offenders) this morning in Eastern Hampshire District Court from Amber Theriault, age 22, arrested by APD back in  mid-May for DUI in town center.

She was observed taking a really w-i-d-e turn onto Triangle Street from North Pleasant and when pulled over had all the common attributes:  smell of liquor, glassy eyes, slurred speech.  She also lost her balance when performing the Field Sobriety Test.

Ms. Theriault will lose her license for 45 days, pay $600 up front in fines and another $65/month for a year while on probation.  If she has no further incidents over the course of the year the DUI is dismissed. 

When asked by Judge Payne where she had her last drink she replied, "Stacker's Pub" in the heart of downtown Amherst.  And considering her breath test back at APD headquarters was .18% -- more than twice the legal limit -- she was pretty drunk when served that "last drink."

Stacker's Pub, 57 North Pleasant Street (building owned by Jamie Cherewatti)