Grafton Superior Court:Murderer Seeks To Withdraw Guilty Plea With New Attorney

Damion Yeargle at his May 2018 sentencing at Grafton Superior Court for second-degree murder. (File photo by Robert Blechl)

NORTH HAVERHILL — Armed with a new defense attorney, a Littleton man who pleaded guilty last year to shooting to death a police informant has filed a formal motion to withdraw his plea of guilty and take his case to a trial based on what he says was a bad legal defense team.

Damion Yeargle, 24, who pleaded guilty in May 2018 at Grafton Superior Court to second-degree murder for a prison sentence of 36 to 72 years, claims he thought he was only pleading guilty to accomplice to murder.

His new attorney, Caroline Brown, of the Tarbell and Brodich law firm, of Concord, adds that Yeargle was not informed by Ted Lothstein and Richard Guerriero, his attorneys who negotiated the plea, that “certain individuals spoke to police providing exculpatory information or that phone records were produced,” information that could have formed the basis for a defense.

In a motion filed July 22 for ineffective assistance of legal counsel, Brown argues, “Mr. Yeargle’s pleas were not made knowingly and voluntarily” and his prior attorneys failed to “properly advise him of the facts of the offense and the nature of the offense to which he plead.

“Furthermore, counsel failed to provide all discovery to Mr. Yeargle,” she wrote. “Had Mr. Yeargle known of this evidence, he could have produced exculpatory evidence. The failure of Mr. Yeargle’s counsel to provide this information prejudiced Mr. Yeargle and there is a reasonable probability that he would not have plead to the two offenses if this information was known.”

Under state law, a new trial can be granted in any case when through accident, mistake or misfortune, justice has not been done and a further hearing would be equitable, she argued.

The prosecutor in the Yeargle case, Senior Assistant N.H. Attorney General Geoffrey Ward, has not yet filed a response to Brown’s motion.

In previous response to Yeargle’s initial handwritten motion for new legal counsel filed in January, Ward said Yeargle’s request for new legal defense does not appear to be a direct appeal of his conviction and, under a N.H. Supreme Court ruling, there is no right to counsel in a challenge to a plea of guilty.

In a Feb. 19 response to Yeargle’s motion for new legal counsel, Ward said Yeargle was the leading conspirator in the May 2016 murder of Robert Pierog, 22, of Littleton, who had been a confidential informant for Bethlehem police, and the motive for the killing was at least in part for Pierog being an informant.

“Together with his co-conspirators – Quade Kadle and Nicholas Skidmore – they obtained gloves in an attempt to limit their fingerprints, bandanas to conceal their faces, and a firearm,” wrote Ward. “Although there were three people involved in the conspiracy, it was [Yeargle] that actually carried out the murder. [Yeargle] shot Mr. Pierog multiple times using a 22.-caliber rifle. After the murder, [Yeargle] took steps to hide his and his co-conspirators’ crimes by disposing of the rifle, gloves, and bandanas in Vermont.”

In January, Kadle, 21, of Jefferson, pleaded guilty to his role as a conspirator in the murder for a prison sentence of 13 to 30 years.

In March, Skidmore, 24, of Littleton, pleaded guilty for his role as a conspirator and was given a same sentence of 13 to 30 years, though he is eligible for a five-year reduction for cooperating with police.

Yeargle is being imprisoned in the N.H. State Prison for Men in Concord.

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