WOONSOCKET ‚ÄĒ The federal government lodged new charges yesterday against two men accused in the Sept. 20 shooting death and robbery of gas station manager David Main.
Jason Pleau and Jose Santiago, both 33, were charged in a U.S. District Court complaint with one count each of Hobbs Act robbery, conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery and use of a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence, death resulting, U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha announced.
The latter charge carries the possibility of the death penalty, but Jim Martin, a spokesman for Neronha, said it's premature to speculate on what sentence the two men will receive.
‚ÄúThat's the potential,‚ÄĚ said Martin. ‚ÄúThat's the maximum penalty the statute calls for.‚ÄĚ
Both men are already facing murder and robbery charges in the state courts, as well as potential prison time for probation or parole violations. How those charges will be affected by the new federal complaint is unclear.
But Martin said both sets of charges could proceed on parallel tracks simultaneously.
‚ÄúCan we both prosecute?‚ÄĚ said Martin. ‚ÄúThe answer is yes. The way the charges are drawn, ours is not a murder charge. It's a firearms charge.‚ÄĚ
Pleau allegedly shot the 49-year-old manager of the Shell station in the head at close range in front of the nearby Diamond Hill Road branch of Citizens Bank, as Main was depositing the weekend's receipts.
As Main lay dying, Pleau allegedly ran through the woods behind the bank to a truck commandeered by Santiago, waiting in the parking lot of an adjacent housing project.
Pleau and Santiago were both in police custody within several days of the homicide, but police withheld their names for nearly three weeks before making them public on the eve of their first appearance in the state courts on Oct. 12.
A third defendant, Kelley M. Lajoie, 32, was arrested two days later and appeared in U.S. District Court on a charge of Hobbs Act robbery. All three suspects are currently detained pending further court action.
Hobbs Act robbery is federal crime defined as a robbery which interferes with interstate commerce. The crime carries a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison, as does conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery, according to Martin.
Pleau is a Providence resident, while Lajoie and Santiago ‚ÄĒ boyfriend and girlfriend ‚ÄĒ were said to be living together in Springfield, Mass., when they were captured, but investigators say they all have ties to Woonsocket.
Pleau has spent most of his adult life in prison following convictions for prior armed robberies. In 1997, he pleaded no contest to two counts of robbery, conspiracy, burglary and assault after a crime spree that included the attempted robbery of Coachmen's Lodge in Bellingham, and the robbery of two convenience stores in Woonsocket ‚ÄĒ AJ's MiniMart and Leo's Store, according to court records.
He was sentenced to 30 years, with 12 to serve at the Adult Correctional Institutions, before he was paroled. He has an 18-year, suspended sentence hanging over his head as a parole violator.
Santiago, meanwhile, faces more than two years of jail time for violating his probation on a felony domestic assault conviction for beating the mother of his five children.
The federal charges are being prosecuted by Asst. U.S. Attorney Adi Goldstein, deputy chief of the criminal division, and Asst. U.S. Atty William J. Ferland. The investigation is still open, said Martin.
The FBI, the Woonsocket Police Department and the state police are in charge of the investigation, with assistance from the U.S. Marshal's Service and the National Guard, he said.
No date has been set for Pleau's and Santiago's initial appearance on the new charges in federal court.