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Thursday, January 26, 2012

DA: Man plotted to burn down sex offenders' home

Updated: 4-24-2007

9-20-2006 New York:

A Mastic man pleaded not guilty to attempted-murder charges Wednesday in an alleged plot to burn down a house where four Level 3 sex offenders lived, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said.

Spota said police detectives, acting on a tip earlier this month, sent an undercover officer to befriend Donald Keegan, a county employee and part-time landscaper who lives less than a mile from the home he planned to torch on Eleanor Avenue. The officer used a hidden camera with audio to tape Keegan, 36, in the backyard of the target home. "I'm going to be going to them from the back, but I'm going to be lighting the side," Keegan told the detective. "The main concern is, I don't know how to explain this: I want them dead."

Keegan planned to burn the house on the evening of Sept. 9, Spota said, using paint thinner and a road flare detectives found in the front seat of Keegan's Ford Mustang when they arrested him that night. Police, who wiretapped Keegan after getting the tip, searched his home and car after the arrest, and found a pit where Keegan did test burns to determine how fast the paint thinner would burn materials.

"He expressed very clearly not only to burn down the house, but kill the sex offenders," Spota said at a news conference Wednesday. "Never should a person be taking the law into their own hands seeking to burn down a house, no matter who they are."

Keegan was charged in Suffolk County Court with nine counts, including second-degree attempted murder and second-degree attempted arson, both felonies with maximum prison terms of 25 years. Keegan is being held on $1 million cash bail or $2 million bond.

Keegan's attorney, Daniel Driscoll, of Bay Shore, entered a not guilty plea on each count.

Driscoll described Keegan as a "very hard-working family man who worked ... to support his young wife and 2-year-old daughter."

Spota said Keegan, who worked for Suffolk's Department of Public Works, falsified his county application by not indicating prior arrests, which included convictions for criminal possession of a weapon, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and two petty larcenies.

The home on Eleanor Avenue sparked outrage in recent weeks since the Mastic Park Civic Association went door-to-door to inform residents that sex offenders had moved in.

Some residents said they began keeping their children indoors after the news and launched a series of protests.

Last week, Suffolk police informed the offenders they had 45 days to leave the house because it was within a quarter-mile of a previously unnoticed educational site on the Poospatuck Indian Reservation, a violation of a new county residency restriction law.

The four offenders had been convicted of crimes ranging from forcible rape to sodomy. Charlie Manolakos, the landlord of the Eleanor Avenue house, said the offenders had been harassed since they moved into the home in June.

"Much of the community has made threats against them ... I'm glad they caught him," he said. Even residents who led the campaign to oust the offenders applauded Keegan's arrest.

"I was shocked that someone would do something so stupid," said John Sicignano, president of the Mastic Park Civic Association. ...more... by BRANDON BAIN


Threats of Violence as Homes for Sex Offenders Cluster in Suffolk

10-9-2006 New York (Long Island):

MASTIC, N.Y. — Not long after four men moved into the small ranch-style home at 115 Eleanor Avenue this summer, one man is said to have readied a special greeting.

Donald Keegan (later donvicted of trying to burn down homes of RSOs), a fellow resident of this working-class Suffolk County town, prepared a concoction of paint thinner and road flares to burn the place and, the police said, kill the occupants, who had all recently served prison time for crimes including rape and sodomy.

The four housemates, ranging in age from 36 to 74, were all registered as Level 3 sex offenders, the highest rating, saved for those the state deems “most likely to re-offend.” One had attacked a man in a wheelchair; the others’ victims were girls ages 8, 9 and 11.

Mr. Keegan was arrested before the plot could be carried out, but his case has exposed a raw and widespread fear over spreading clusters of sex offenders in Suffolk County’s lower-income neighborhoods, like Mastic — where opponents say 76 offenders live within a five-mile radius — and nearby Coram and Gordon Heights, where 39 offenders, most having assaulted children, live within a square half-mile, many grouped in the same houses. This is the highest concentration of Level 2 and 3 offenders on Long Island.

As laws across the country have radically restricted where sex offenders can live once released from prison, a growing number of landlords here and elsewhere are marketing their properties to the ex-convicts, who often receive government rent subsidies. While some landlords see a business opportunity or even a moral calling in opening their doors to such a vilified population, many residents say the clusters threaten the safety of their children.

Mr. Keegan, 36, is in the Suffolk County Jail in Riverhead, with bail set at $1 million, and is facing a sentence of up to 25 years on charges of attempted murder and attempted arson. A county maintenance worker, he lives with his wife and their 2-year-old daughter on Patchogue Avenue, whose residents include two convicted child rapists, state records show.

In a jailhouse interview, Mr. Keegan insisted on his innocence but said, “I would do anything to protect my daughter.”

The situation at 115 Eleanor developed even as the authorities moved to evict the four men, having decided that after-school programs at the community center on the Poospatuck Indian Reservation — a block from the house — should have disqualified the site for sex offenders. A new county law took effect in June barring registered offenders from living within a quarter-mile of a school, playground or licensed day care center.

Though two of the four offenders have already moved out of the house, state and local politicians are now scrambling to reduce these clusters; one Suffolk County lawmaker has introduced legislation that would bar the Department of Social Services from putting more than one offender in a single house.

Charles Manolakos, who owns 115 Eleanor Avenue, defended his tenants as “citizens who have paid their debt and have a right to live there.” But Joyce Pulliam, who lives across the street, complained that the authorities “protect the sex offenders more than us.”

“They’re letting four and five offenders gather in a single house to create little sex offender clubs to prey on our children,” said Ms. Pulliam, who has worked strenuously to rally neighbors against the newcomers to her block. “The police have the manpower to arrest Keegan, but they don’t have the manpower to protect us from sex offenders.”

Situated between the high-priced Hamptons and the densely populated, upper-middle-class precincts of Nassau County, this area over the past decade has become a magnet for sex offenders upon their release from prison.

Of some 24,000 registered sex offenders in the state, 825 live in Suffolk County, nearly twice the 452 in neighboring Nassau, whose population is only slightly smaller. Some blame the county’s Department of Social Services for referring offenders to landlords who have bought inexpensive houses in neighborhoods with little political clout.

“D.S.S. has seen this building for a long time in these neighborhoods, and they’ve never done anything to stop it,” said Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan’s Law, a national group based on Long Island that works to prevent sexual abuse of children.

But given the number of sex offenders in Suffolk, “There is no way they could all be placed in neighborhoods without kids,” said Dennis Nowak, a Social Services spokesman.

Required by state law to help find and finance housing for sex offenders released from prison, the department refers offenders to nonprofit agencies, which connect them with landlords who will accept them — and the $309 monthly rent stipend allocated by the county — in homes that meet state and local regulations.

“This is an issue that communities across the country are facing, and there’s no easy solution,” Mr. Nowak said. “We’ve become a lightning rod for the issue, but it’s much bigger than us.”

The lightning struck in Mastic this summer, when the four men moved into the Eleanor Avenue house, paying $550 each per month. It is next door to a family with seven young children, and across the avenue from a residence for 12 women recovering from drug and alcohol abuse.

“With all these kids on this block and 12 vulnerable women in a house, this is where they allow a house full of sex offenders?” said one of the women, Denise Mello, 32, a recovering heroin addict.

Soon, parents on the block began keeping their children indoors. Neighbors picketed in front of the house, and members of the Mastic Park Civic Association went door to door distributing fliers with the offenders’ names, police photos and criminal records.

At one homeowners’ meeting at the local library, a resident, not Mr. Keegan, stood up and said, “I’ll burn the house down,” recalled the civic association president, John Sicignano. In response, he said, “Fifty people stood up and started clapping.”

“He definitely expressed it the wrong way, but who knows, if something threatened my kid, maybe I’d react the same way,” Mr. Sicignano, 49, who runs an aircraft engineering firm, said of Mr. Keegan.

Mr. Manolakos commented ironically: “This guy was doing what the whole neighborhood wanted to do. He’s a local hero.”

Mr. Keegan said that his lawyer had warned him not to talk about the case, and that he was a law-abiding man with no time for mischief.

“I have three jobs,” said Mr. Keegan, who does private landscaping after his maintenance work with the county. “I come home exhausted every night and turn on the Discovery Channel.”

Mr. Keegan denied plotting to burn down the house Sept. 9, when he was arrested with road flares on the front seat of his Ford Mustang. The police, acting on a tip, had sent a detective to befriend Mr. Keegan and caught his threats on tape.

Fred Hollman, 36, who served time for first-degree rape of an 11-year-old girl, moved into 115 Eleanor Avenue in June after living briefly in western Suffolk County, but said in an interview in September that he was looking for a new home because of the furor.

“The last place I was staying, in Brentwood, all the neighbors knew about my status and were friends with me,” he said. “We all hung out together.” But, Mr. Hollman added, he has four children and “wouldn’t want them living around sex offenders either.” Mr. Hollman said he saw Mr. Keegan “in and out of the neighbors’ houses a bunch of times” before his arrest.

Mr. Manolakos, who co-owns a number of homes on Long Island and rents rooms mostly to mentally disabled tenants, says he plans to fight the mid-September order to remove the sex offenders within 45 days. He argued that that the Indian reservation, a 250-resident maze of scruffy suburban streets lined with smoke shops and trailer homes, has no legal bearing on the block, since it operates as its own sovereign territory, outside of many state laws and regulations.

Other landlords defend their right to rent to sex offenders.

“They just want to live their lives,” said Bernadette Parks, whose mother, Mary Dodson, rents to 27 offenders in 11 houses in a small area in Coram and Gordon Heights nicknamed Dodsonville.

On a single block of Homestead Avenue, Mrs. Dodson owns homes filled with 15 offenders, said Mrs. Parks, who manages the properties. The extended Dodson family, with many young children, lives in the surrounding neighborhood.

“They’re being closely watched, and they’re more scared than the other folks here,” said Mrs. Parks, a devout Christian who sees the family’s thriving rental operation as a kind of religious mission, and invites the sex offenders to join her grandchildren in tending rabbits, for therapy.

“My grandchildren all play on this block,” Mrs. Parks said, cradling a bowl of newborn bunnies in her living room. “That’s how much I trust these people. They’ve been deemed to enter back into society and they’ll have to suffer the rest of their lives with being labeled.”

Don’t tell that to Chief Harry Wallace, who runs the Poospatuck Indian Reservation. A Dartmouth-educated lawyer with a ponytail, he keeps two sets of business cards on his desk, one for his law practice, the other for his Poospatuck Smoke Shop and Trading Post.

“What these landlords are doing by renting out to sex offenders,” Chief Wallace said, “are undermining communities trying to better themselves.” ..more.. by COREY KILGANNON


UPDATE: L.I. Man Admits Arson Plot Against Sex Offenders' Home

3-28-2007 New York:

RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (AP) -- A Long Island man is facing up to nine years in prison after admitting in court that he plotted to burn down the home of four high-risk sex offenders.

Donald Keegan, 36, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and arson charges Tuesday before Suffolk County Court Judge Barbara Kahn.

Keegan admitted telling an undercover detective that he planned to torch the house, which is located less than a mile from his Mastic home. "I want them dead,'' he told the cop, according to Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota.

Keegan, a county maintenance worker, also admitted setting "practice fires'' in his backyard. He said his motivation was to protect his wife and young daughter. He said he went to the house where men convicted of rape, sodomy and other crimes lived, but opted not to set the fire when he saw a police cruiser in the neighborhood.

He apparently became aware of the men living in the house after a civic group staged protests and community meetings. A member of the civic group had learned of the home by checking with a state sex offender registry.

Keegan was arrested last September after detectives secretly recorded Keegan discussing his plan with an undercover officer. When he was taken into custody, detectives recovered from his car a road flare and a squeeze bottle full of accelerant, prosecutors said.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 24. ..more.. by 1010 Wins


Suspected Arsonist Sentenced Today

4-24-2007 New York:

36-year-old Mastic resident Donald Keegan was sentenced this morning in Riverhead for plotting to burn a residence that housed registered sex offenders. Judge Barbara Kahn sentenced Keegan to seven years imprisonment for pleading guilty to attempted arson in the second degree as well as three to nine years in prison for second degree conspiracy. Keegan will also get five years post release supervision on the attempted arson charge.

Keegan was a Suffolk county employee and a part-time landscaper who lived less than a mile from the residence he planned to burn down. An undercover investigation by the district attorney’s office led to Keegan’s arrest in September. Detectives recorded Keegan’s plans to burn the residence on surveillance cameras. Keegan had paint thinner and a road flare in the front seat of his Mustang when detectives arrested him. A pit was found in Keegan’s home where tests were run to see how quick paint thinner burns.

The sex-offender home at 115 Eleanor Avenue had risk-level three sex offenders, which, according to Megan’s Law, are the most likely to repeat their offenses. Residents and community leaders protested the residence, which was near a school. After Keegan’s arrest, state officials ordered the eviction of the residents. Despite her outrage at the location of the residence, Parents for Megan’s Law founder Laura Ahearn did not approve of Keegan’s plans. “It’s completely unacceptable what Keegan did,” she previously told the Long Island Press, adding that he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. ..more.. by Mo Ibrahim

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