Judge: Defense can't access cellphone records in assault trial involving Pittsfield ex-officer

By Bob Dunn, The Berkshire Eagle PITTSFIELD — A judge has rejected as “untimely” a defendant’s motion to see the cellphone records of a man he is accused of assaulting. The request was made by attorney Timothy Burke on behalf of Jason Labelle, who is set to stand trial in the incident along with city police officer Michael McHugh.

In his decision, Judge Michael Callan questioned the timing and relevance of the request, noting it “appears to be largely a fishing expedition.” Labelle and McHugh are accused of assaulting Dalton resident Michael Cebula on July 4, 2016, and then providing false information about the incident. McHugh is currently suspended without pay.

Trial for both defendants is expected to begin as early as next week in Berkshire Superior Court. Burke was seeking Cebula’s cellphone records from Jan.

1, 2016, through July 30, 2017, including any records of text or email messages sent during that period. The motion asserts that the records are relevant and would be needed to properly prepare a defense, and that a failure to obtain those records in advance of trial could cause an unreasonable delay in the case.

Motions to move the case out of Berkshire County and to dismiss the charges against McHugh also have been denied by the court. A judge did approve a motion that allows access to some of Cebula’s medical records.

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According to court documents, Labelle told McHugh he and his family were being harassed by Cebula. The two spotted Cebula pulling into a driveway about 10 p.m. the night of the incident and approached him.

McHugh then pulled him from the truck and held him down while Labelle kicked and beat him, prosecutors allege. Cebula was treated for fractured ribs, a fractured vertebra and other injuries, but attorneys for the men have raised questions about the source of those injuries. Both defendants also are accused of providing police with false information in the case.

McHugh was off-duty from the police department the night of the incident. He was placed on suspension without pay in August 2017 following his indictment by a Berkshire County grand jury and a local civil service hearing, according to Police Chief Michael Wynn. McHugh has pleaded not guilty to charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery, misleading a police officer and being a public employee making a false report.

Labelle has pleaded not guilty to charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery, falsely reporting a crime, misleading a judge and misleading a clerk. Cebula has also filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking unspecified damages from the two men and the city. The defendants remain free on personal recognizance with the condition they have no contact with Cebula.

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

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