Prosecutors Deny Offer Of 25-Year Plea Deal To Murderer

Damion Yeargle

Damion Yeargle, who is serving 36 to 72 years in New Hampshire State Prison for murder, says he only found out after his pleas of guilty that prosecutors had extended to his former attorney a plea deal with a minimum of 25 years to serve.

Prosecutors with the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office say no such deal was ever offered.

Since pleading guilty at Grafton Superior Court in 2018 to shooting Robert Pierog, 22, outside a West Main Street apartment in Littleton in May 2016, Yeargle, 26, has enlisted a new, taxpayer-funded attorney in an effort to withdraw his pleas of guilty to second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder and take his case to trial.

In October, public defender Don Topham filed a motion asking the court to allow Yeargle to withdraw his pleas, arguing that Yeargle’s prior attorneys failed him by not informing him of the alleged 25-year plea deal and that Yeargle had been under the influence of drugs for mental health issues at the time of his pleas to the imposed sentence.

“He has now become clear-headed,” said Topham. “That has allowed him to realize that he was not competent at the time of his plea and sentencing due to the effects of those drugs.”

Yeargle’s attorneys at the time were ineffective and “constitutionally deficient,” argued Topham, and the 25-year sentence would be “far shorter sentence than the one he received.”

Filing a recent objection to the defense’s motion was the lead prosecutor in the case, Senior Assistant New Hampshire Attorney General Geoffrey Ward.

Providing numerous citations of case law in similar cases when defendants seek to withdraw pleas of guilty, Ward said when a defendant moves to withdraw a prior guilty plea he has the burden to prove that his earlier plea was not made voluntary and that a withdrawal of the plea must be allowed “to correct a manifest injustice.”

Ward argues that Yeargle’s claims — including the claim that his grandmother would be called as a witness for the state and would be jailed if she didn’t testify — “are not supported by an affidavit from the defendant and no discovery has been provided to the state which would support the allegations …”

Ward said he was directly involved in plea negotiations with Yeargle’s prior defense attorney, Richard Guerriero, of the Lothstein Guerriero law firm in Concord, “and to counsel’s knowledge no offer was made by the state that includes as a term a 25-year minimum sentence.”

“The remaining allegations, concerning his belief about his grandmother and his mental state during the plea and sentencing hearing, are simple contradictions of the statements he made to the court, under oath, at the time he entered his plea over three years ago,” said Ward. “Such bare assertions, without support in the record, are wholly insufficient to overcome his burden.”

Because of these failings, although Yeargle requests a hearing on the matter, a hearing is neither required nor warranted, said Ward, who asked the court to deny Yeargle’s motion for a trial.

Following a status conference on Oct. 21, Ward announced he will be filing a motion to dismiss, which is due in early December, after which the defense will respond, according to court records.

If the defense’s motion for a new trial is granted, Yeargle would be charged by the state with first-degree murder, which carries a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Yeargle, of Littleton, who was the trigger man armed with a .22-caliber rifle, conspired with Nicholas Skidmore, 26, of Littleton, and Quade Kadle, 23, of Jefferson, to shoot Pierog outside the steps to Pierog’s Littleton apartment, in part for Pierog being an informant for Bethlehem police and over a bad drug deal, said prosecutors.

In January 2019, Kadle, who knocked on Pierog’s door to lure him down the steps, pleaded guilty to his role as a conspirator and is serving a prison sentence of 13 to 30 years.

In March 2019, Skidmore, who drove Yeargle and Kadle to and from the scene and was the first to cooperate with police, pleaded guilty to being a conspirator and was also given 13 to 30 years to serve, with a possible five-year reduction for his cooperation.

During the murder, prosecutors said the trio wore gloves to hide their fingerprints and bandanas to conceal their faces, and afterward discarded the evidence and the rifle on back roads in Vermont.

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