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ACLU sides with Chafee in Pleau case

February 20, 2012

WOONSOCKET – The state chapter of the ACLU has filed a “friend of the court” brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston, siding with Gov. Chafee in his efforts to prevent accused murderer Jason Pleau from facing a possible death sentence at the hands of federal authorities.
Four other ACLU affiliates, from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and Puerto Rico, which are covered by the court’s jurisdiction, are also parties to the brief, as are the national and state associations of criminal defense lawyers.
Pleau, 34, is accused in the shooting death of gas station manager David Main during a robbery outside Citizens Bank in September 2010, but there are no murder charges pending against him in any court. There used to be, but they were dismissed by the state in anticipation of his arraignment under the jurisdiction of the federal courts – when Chafee interceded, citing the state’s longstanding opposition to the death penalty.
At issue is a law known as the Interstate Agreement on Detainers, which normally allows for the transfer of prisoners from one state to the next or between a state and the federal government. Setting what has been widely described as a precedent, Chafee refused to honor the transfer under the IAD last spring. When U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha attempted to renew the request under a more traditional writ of habeus corpus, Chafee still wouldn’t budge, touching off a custody battle that has kept Pleau in legal limbo.
After a majority of a three-member panel of the appeals court sided with Chafee on the issue, Neronha’s request to have the full court reconsider was granted in December. The ACLU filed the latest brief in anticipation of a hearing April 4.
“The majority opinion in Pleau’s case held in October that ‘once the government has put the gears of the IAD into motion, it is bound by the IAD’s terms, including its express reservation of a right of refusal to the governor of the sending state,’” the ACLU said in a press release.
“The ACLU brief supports that view, challenging the federal government’s contention that ‘it may refuse to transfer a prisoner to state custody but that a state may not refuse to transfer a prisoner to federal custody.’”
The ACLU said the IAD “creates a well-functioning, protective system that balances the interests of the prisoner, the prosecutor in the receiving state, and the governor of a sending state, giving each a voice in the process.” Federal prosecutors, on the other hand, argue that only the federal government should be the beneficiary of the IAD, “while evading its obligations and frustrating the ultimate objectives” of Congress in creating the law, the ACLU asserted.
In a summary of its legal argument, the ACLU called the IAD “critically important” to state and federal prisoners facing criminal charges. The law was enacted by Congress in 1970 to create cooperative procedures for allowing prisoners and prosecutors to dispose of pending cases promptly.
“The United States is a party to the IAD, and when it chooses to proceed under the IAD by lodging a detainer for a state prisoner, it must comply with the IAD’s provisions, including the duty to respect a governor’s discretionary decision to refuse to transfer the prison to federal custody,” papers filed in the case say. “Permitting the United States to opt-out of the IAD, after lodging a detainer, would undermine the integrity of the entire IAD process, cause the very problems the IAD was intended to alleviate, and frustrate the cooperative procedures that lie at the heart of the scheme that Congress enacted.”
On the contrary, federal prosecutors say the law isn’t broad enough for Chafee to assert his personal opposition to the death penalty as grounds to ignore the IAD.
“Although a refusal to transfer custody here is based on a governor’s opposition to capital punishment, the panel opinion creates the potential for federal-state conflicts in other subject areas,” wrote Asst. U.S. Attorney Donald C. Lockhart in earlier briefs. “Imagine the governor who disagrees with federal drug penalties or who thinks that marijuana should be legalized, or the governor who believes certain gun laws violate the Second Amendment. Armed with panel opinion, such a governor will feel emboldened to veto the writ in such cases.”
The ACLU’s friend of the court brief was filed by ACLU volunteer attorneys at the law firm of Foley Hoag LLP in Boston.
Rhode Island was the second state to abolish the death penalty in 1852, and it has not carried out an execution since that time. Nevertheless, prisoners can face the death penalty if tried for certain federal crimes, including Hobbs Act Robbery, one of several counts returned against Pleau by a federal grand jury, and which he has never been arraigned on.
A career criminal who’s spent most of his adult life in jail, Pleau is currently serving 18 years at the state prison for a combination of parole and probation violations that kicked in when he was arrested for Main’s killing. Attorney General Peter Kilmartin says his intention is to bring new murder charges against Pleau if, in the end, the courts uphold Chafee’s position.
Pleau was one of three individuals who allegedly conspired to rob Main as he was depositing receipts from the Diamond Hill Road Shell station, where he worked, to the nearby Citizens Bank. One, Kelley M. Lajoie, 33, of Chicopee, Mass., has already pleaded guilty to robbery, firearms and other charges, but she has not yet been sentenced.
Similar charges are pending against her boyfriend, Jose Santiago, 34, also of Chicopee. The federal government does not intend to seek the death penalty against either of them, though prosecutors have not yet ruled it out in Pleau’s case.
Prosecutors say Lajoie acted as a lookout while Pleau shot Main in the head outside the front entrance to the bank, fleeing with a deposit bag containing some $12,542 to a getaway truck operated by Santiago.


,,,And now this ????

February 24, 2012 by Jeffo46 (not verified), 3 years 32 weeks ago
Comment: 910

It figures the ACLU would sooner or later stick their noses in this. They're nothing more than a bunch Neo-Nazis who love to take away the rights of every hard working American , and now the family of the man that this animal Jason Pleau murdered , have to deal with this as well along with Governor Gump ? If I were them, I would continue to fight this and if possible ,take it all the way to the Supreme Court .

This is crazy......

February 21, 2012 by Marcel (not verified), 3 years 32 weeks ago
Comment: 902

I hate to say this but had Mr. Pleau shot the wife of Governor Chaffee or the sibling of the head of the ACLU, you'd be hearing a different tune about Mr. Pleau's future in the courts. The victim was just a mid level worker like most of the citizens of R.I.

These officials are not fighting to save the life of a possible wrongfully accused killer but that of a cold blooded murderer who could have taken the money and run but instead executing the employee doing his job seemed more appropriate. Kind of like a thrill kill. There's more passion shown for vengeance when a coyote grabs a few neighborhood cats in Cumberland.

This governor has no problem funding abortions with the soon to be had Obama health care money but at the same time is drawing a line in the sand about saving a murderer.

This isn't about Mr. Pleau, it's about saving a life as a trophy for the liberal ways of what Rhode Island has come to live by. As a Rhode Island native but living in California, I have to say that the Hollywood mentality has routed itself in such a great state 3000 miles away. What a shame...

I risked my life in Vietnam for my fellow US citizens and now I see leaders in Rhode Island and New England acting like Jane Fonda when she visited North Vietnam and slept with the enemy. Even though the North Vietnamese army killed the southerners by the scores, we were labeled as the bad guys according to Jane.

Maybe Governor Chaffee can get his photo taken with Mr.Pleau to use during his next election. Have the defendant stand there with a pistol in his hand and Governor Chaffee with a thumbs up.... Caption would say, " I saved a life "

This great country is deteriorating piece by piece and Rhode Island is one of those pieces......... God save us and have mercy on those misdirected leaders and the ones who vote for them.

Wow, this is all so

February 21, 2012 by Joshua.J (not verified), 3 years 32 weeks ago
Comment: 901

Wow, this is all so confusing. If someone killed someone then they should have to face the consequences of their actions no matter where they live or where it took place. It is hard to understand what is going to happen here.

ACLU side with Chafee

February 21, 2012 by TomFicca (not verified), 3 years 32 weeks ago
Comment: 900

Of course they would . They are in the same screwed up state of mind as Gov. Gump ! All losers in my book !

Death penalty

February 21, 2012 by strawboss66 (not verified), 3 years 32 weeks ago
Comment: 899

I am very concerned about the so call civil liberty union. Are they people that hate the law? Do they hate churches? I wonder if they hate everything in general. I think there are many people that would agree with me. Let pleau go to the Feds. Federal gov. supercedes the State. If this animal had killed one of their family members, I wonder if they would try to save his sorry butt. The aclu and our idiot Gov. should back off. Let him get the death penalty. He is a scum bag and does not deserve to live. An eye for an eye. I would love to pull the switch on this scum bag.

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