In a case full of jokers and aces, Derek Lodie pulled out the wildest of wild cards last week when he took a plea deal for 8-12 years in prison and a significant reduction in charges for his role in the murder of off-duty police officer Daniel Talbot in 2007.
Out of the blue, Lodie, 19, pleaded guilty last week to the lesser crime of accessory before the fact of manslaughter. He will not be testifying for the prosecution in the upcoming January trial of three remaining co-defendants.
“Derek wished to put the case behind him so he could begin serving a prison sentence,” said his attorney, J.W. Carney Jr.
Lodie admitted in open court that as he walked through the parking lot at Revere High School (RHS) on the morning of Sept. 29, 2007, the off-duty Revere Police officers began yelling derogatory things about the Bloods street gang. He did not know they were police officers, took offense to the statements, and used his cell phone to call Robert Iacoviello Jr. – the alleged triggerman in the incident – because Iacoviello was known to keep firearms at a nearby location.
Lodie, in effect, admitted to summoning Iacoviello to the scene, whom he knew would be armed.
“Do you admit that you’re guilty of the crime you’re pleading guilty to,” Judge Patrick Brady asked Lodie.
“Yes, your honor,” Lodie said.
One thing he did not admit or say, though, was who actually shot Talbot. His admission did not explicitly implicate any of the co-defendants in the case.
Nevertheless, for those three remaining co-defendants – and especially for alleged triggerman Iacoviello – Lodie’s plea changes the entire case. However, those close to the situation said it may or may not be a good turn of events; that there could be advantages for both sides in Lodie being removed from the case.
It’s too early, though, to tell what those advantages might be at a jury trial in open court.
Lodie was facing charges of accessory before the fact of first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole. The maximum sentence for his reduced charge is 20 years, and he received 8 to 12. He will be eligible for parole in six years, when considering the two years he has already served since the shooting.
“This was a tragic mistake in every respect,” Carney told the Journal. “The greatest tragedy, of course, is the death of Daniel Talbot. It is also a terrible fact that the victim himself played a distinct role in instigating the incident and that a homeless boy who had been minding his own business now will be spending years in a state prison for his role in this incident, which itself is a tragedy…Derek remains mystified that the intoxicated group who taunted him were, in fact, police officers pretending to be gang members.”
Carney also said that Lodie could have gotten a better plea deal if he had agreed to testify, but was against doing so.
“Derek’s plea agreement explicitly states that he will not be a witness for the Commonwealth against his co-defendants,” said Carney. “In fact, Derek might have received a better sentence if he had been willing to testify at trial for the prosecution, but he was adamant that he would not do so.”
Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley said that this was a significant step forward in the case for his office.
“This marks a major step forward in our prosecution of the case,” Conley said. “It holds accountable a young man who was not the shooter, but who should have known the inherent danger of calling an armed associate to the scene and escalating it to the point of violence and death. We’re focused now on the trial to come and the promise of justice for Officer Dan Talbot.”
However, some family members were not happy with the reduced charges, and many in the legal community agreed that it was a significant reduction in Lodie’s charges. Yet, the district attorney’s office did not agree with that assessment.
“It was not a dramatic reduction in charges,” said Jake Wark, a spokesman for the DA. “Lodie approached our office with an offer to plead guilty to that offense, admitting to the most important elements of his role in Officer Talbot’s murder. With a double-digit state prison sentence, it holds him accountable for setting the event in motion while taking into account that he was not the shooter and did not engage in a joint venture. Just as importantly, it allows us to focus our attention and efforts on the shooting itself – the heart of the case and its most important aspect. Strategically and tactically, we’d have been remiss not to take the plea when it holds Lodie accountable without any of the uncertainty of trial.”
Certainly, the scene at Dedham District Court – where Judge Brady accepted the plea – was a dramatic one.
Talbot’s mother – Patricia – gave a statement, as well as Talbot’s one-time fiancée, Constance Bethell. Also, his brother, Paul Talbot, gave an impassioned impact statement voicing displeasure with the plea deal.
“If God had allowed me to trade places with him, I would have done it, no questions asked,” said his mother, Patricia, while holding a framed picture of her son. “I overheard someone say at the first court hearing that he might not have been killed if he said he was a police officer. But it doesn’t matter if you’re a police officer or a man on the street – no one has the right to kill anyone.”
Meanwhile, Bethell, who watched Talbot essentially die in her arms on that tragic night, said she will always jump when a gun goes off and will never forget seeing him gasping for air in her arms.
“I now live my life with that last vision of Dan gasping for air while I held his hand telling him to be strong and that I loved him,” she told the court. “The man who I always turned to protect me and provide me with safety was dying before my eyes and I could do nothing to save him. My last vision of Dan is not who Dan was. Dan was a strong man with lots of life to live. With one pull of a trigger that was taken away from him. Maybe it’s wrong, but I will never be able to forgive Derek Lodie for being part of what led to the death of my fiancé, Dan Talbot…The question is what hasn’t this impacted? I will forever wonder what my life would have been like if Dan wasn’t taken from this world too soon. I will always jump when I hear a gun go off.”
Iacoviello, 21, is charged with first-degree murder.
James Heang, 18, and Gia Nagy, 18, both of Revere, are charged with lesser crimes for their role in the murder.
One young man who allegedly came with Iacoviello to RHS that night has agreed to become a cooperating witness, testifying in the case in exchange for dismissal of unrelated crimes.
Also, a second young man who is closely related to one of the remaining defendants has also agreed to be a cooperating witness in the case, testifying against his relative and Iacoviello in exchange for what appears to be leniency on unrelated drug charges.
The trial begins on Jan. 4, 2010.