Rather than send a Pittsfield builder to prison for nearly four years, the judge handling a bank fraud case cut that by more than half Friday, expressing sympathy for a defendant brought low by a former financial mentor.

The Berkshire Eagle  reports U.S. District Court Judge Mark G. Mastroianni ordered Jeffrey Pierce to turn himself in Oct. 21 to begin a 20-month sentence for his role in a conspiracy more than a decade ago to defraud the Greylock Federal Credit Union in Pittsfield.

Mastroianni could be seen to agonize over the proper sentence to impose, alternately praising Pierce as "a very good person" and noting that no one should get "a pass" on fraud that cost a financial institution $4 million.

The judge, after halting Friday's proceedings several times to consult with probation officials and leaving the courtroom to research comparable cases, declared that he could not impose the 46-month sentence requested by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven H. Breslow, preferring what he termed "a sentence that will not destroy Mr. Pierce and Mr. Pierce's life."

But neither would he sentence the builder just to probation, as requested by Pierce's attorney, Lori H. Levinson, of Great Barrington.

By clearing Pierce from the docket, the next Greylock case will center on former credit union executive Michael DiCenzo, who faces sentencing after admitting guilt in a 2014 plea agreement. His case had been postponed repeatedly by the government because he might be needed as a witness against Pierce.