PROVIDENCE — The man at the center of a capital punishment battle between the state and federal governments on Wednesday changed his plea to guilty to avoid the death penalty.
Jason Pleau pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Providence to robbery, conspiracy and using a firearm in a crime of violence in the September 2010 killing of David Main, a Woonsocket gas station manager shot to death as he was walking into the Citizens Bank branch at 1675 Diamond Hill Road to deposit the Diamond Hill and Mendon Road Shell station's weekend receipts.
Members of Main's family, including his school-aged son, mother and sisters, listened quietly and cried as Assistant U.S. Attorney Adi Goldstein, prosecutor, recounted to the court how Pleau conspired with two others to rob Main, waited for him outside the bank with a .38-caliber revolver, told Main to "give me the dough," and then shot him as he ran for the door.
Main, 49, died of a gunshot wound to the head.
U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith agreed to sentence Pleau to life in prison without parole, and scheduled his formal sentencing for Oct. 25.
James Martin, spokesman for U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha, said Pleau accepted the plea agreement worked out in advance of the hearing and affirmed during the session that it represented his acceptance of a sentence of life without parole for his crimes.
“He signed the plea agreement today and in court he entered a guilty plea,” Martin said. The facts of the case read to the court by Goldstein and agreed to by Pleau during the hearing would have been presented in the state’s arguments had the case gone to trial, Martin said.
The agreement states that Jason Pleau, Jose Santiago and Kelley Lajoie conspired with each other to commit an armed robbery of the
See PLEA, page A2
manager of the Shell Gas Station at 1325 Diamond Hill Road.
On Sept. 20, 2010, the agreement states, Jason Pleau robbed David Main, the manager of the Shell Gas Station, of money and property, as Main attempted to enter Citizens Bank.
The agreement states that during the robbery, “Jason Pleau possessed, carried and brandished a loaded revolver.
In also states that “Jason Pleau fired the revolver multiple times and shot Mr. Main in the head, causing the death of the Mr. Main.”
The use of the firearm by Pleau, the agreement states, “was known to or was reasonably foreseeable to the other co-conspirators charged in the indictment.
As a result the robbery, Jason Pleau, Jose Santiago, and Kelley Lajoie obtained approximately $12,542 in United States currency which they divided among themselves, according to the agreement.
Jason Pleau, according to the plea agreement, discarded the firearm after the robbery by throwing it into the Providence River.
Judge Smith questioned Plea about his understanding of the agreement and fact that it would resulted in a life sentence without parole, and Pleau indicated he understood that portion of agreement, Martin said. “It was a binding plea agreement and he will be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole,” Martin said.
Gov. Lincoln Chafee fought unsuccessfully to keep Pleau out of federal custody because of the threat of capital punishment that federal authorities indicated they might pursue. Chafee said the state had rejected the use of the death penalty and that it was an issue of state's rights. But an appeals court ruled last year the state must surrender Pleau to federal officials, and the U.S. Supreme Court in January declined to take up Chafee's appeal of that ruling.
R.I. Attorney General Peter Kilmartin’s spokeswoman, Amy Kempe, said Wednesday night that Pleau was initially presented as a parole violator in the state courts following his arrest and held at the ACI after a hearing on that charge. He remains in custody at ACI but has no other state charges pending against him, Kempe said. “Once he was indicted and charged by the federal government, he was transferred to their jurisdiction and has been with federal prosecution since that time,” she said. Pleau's lawyer, Bob Mann, said outside court on Wednesday that they were grateful Pleau would no longer faced the death penalty.
Jose Santiago and Kelley Lajoie, both of Massachusetts, were also charged in the case. Lajoie has pleaded guilty, while Santiago pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go to trial next month.
Authorities have said the three used the $12,542 they obtained from the robbery to go shopping.
Main's family appeared grief-stricken on Wednesday. Inside the courtroom, as Pleau was led away in shackles and handcuffs, Main's mother said, "This is an evil person."
Outside the courthouse, Main's sisters said they missed their brother and their mother misses her son. They said it was too painful to discuss watching Pleau in court, but were relieved they were moving forward.
"He's going away for life and he'll be in there forever. So that's it. He won't harm anybody else," said Heather Hitchen, Main's sister. "We can try to find some closure."