Hundreds of Berkshire County defendants will soon see their drug charges dismissed. It’s due to misconduct at the now-defunct Amherst Drug Lab, including the "handful" of defendants that retired District Attorney David Capeless was hoping to retry.

The Berkshire Eagle reports that newly named District Attorney Paul Caccaviello yesterday said that the office has decided to let go of all the cases for which disgraced drug lab chemist Sonja Farak certified drug evidence before her arrest in January of 2013. Farak was arrested for tampering with and stealing drug evidence at the state crime lab at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to feed her own drug addiction.

Compounding the ordeal was subsequent misconduct. The Attorney General's Office, under previous leadership, failed to release evidence that the chemist struggled with addiction for years, beyond the six-month window prosecutors originally thought. The court ruled that was a misstep that led to longer sentences for some defendants.

A spokesperson for Attorney General Maura Healey said the office is pleased with Caccaviello's decision. The office is planning to submit a brief in the ongoing case before the Supreme Judicial Court.

 

'Shuffleton's Barbershop' Headed To L.A. Museum

The future home of "Shuffleton's Barbershop" will be a brand new, 300,000-square-foot museum which is being constructed in Exposition Park in south Los Angeles.

The Berkshire Eagle reports that when the Berkshire Museum said in February that an unidentified nonprofit museum would acquire Norman Rockwell's acclaimed painting, the list of prospective buyers was not very long. On Wednesday, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art made its purchase of the painting official. The museum, which broke ground March 14th and is expected to open in 2022, was co-founded by George Lucas, the famed movie director, and his spouse, Mellody Hobson.

An Official at the Lucas museum says that the cultural treasure will continue to be seen and enjoyed by the public in an American museum, where it will be a source of inspiration for generations to come. The painting is first being loaned to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge this year and will be exhibited there into 2020.

The museum did not reveal what the Lucas Museum paid for the paining, but the museum first planned to sell it at a Sotheby's auction with a bid range placed of $20 million to $30 million.

 

BRTA Considering Fare Increases, Service Reductions

The BRTA is prepping for increasing fares and reducing services. Berkshire Regional Transit Authority Administrator Robert Malnati said the state's funding for the organization is flat in the governor's budget.

IBerkshires.com reports that the organization says fixed costs such as salary increases, health insurance, fuel, and liability insurance is expected to increase. Because of this, the authority is planning its budget while trying to find more than $378,000 in savings in other places.

Malnati was told by the governor's office that regional transit authorities should expect $80.4 million in funding. That’s the same as last year. The BRTA receives just $2.5 million of that money. The transit authorities say they need at least $88 million to sustain themselves. Malnati said that if the state had kept up with regular increases since 2014, the system would receive $2.74 million.However support from the state hasn't kept pace. Malnati is presenting options to the ridership over a series of six public hearings.