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Keeler’s poison spreads to federal court

Detective Daniel Keeler, whose troubled investigations have imperiled case after case in Suffolk County courts, may soon take his act to federal court, where he will have to explain why he believed the tales of a man who nobody else seems to believe.

A deal made four years ago between then–US Attorney Donald K. Stern and admitted triple-murderer Augusto Lopes is turning out to be about as lopsided as trading Heathcliff Slocumb for Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek — and it’s Lopes who’s getting the steal, thanks largely to Keeler. A federal sting caught Lopes red-handed buying two 9mm pistols from an undercover officer in July 2000. (Police and federal agents boasted that his high-profile arrest would silence the retaliatory violence among local Cape Verdean gangs, of which one, the Stonehurst gang, Lopes was alleged to be a member; it did not.) That charge alone should have earned him at least 15 years in prison. Instead he will serve a maximum of 10 for a smorgasbord of violence to which he has thus far admitted — including three murders and more than a dozen other shootings.

In return, the US Attorney’s Office has gotten a whole bunch of useless testimony from a lying thug — testimony that was entirely rejected by jurors in two trials last summer and in a multi-defendant trial that ended in federal court Tuesday.

Turns out, the deal’s roots reach back to none other than Detective Keeler, Boston’s "Mr. Homicide." As reported by the Phoenix (see "Reasonable Bias," News and Features, January 7), Keeler has become courtroom poison for the Suffolk County District Attorney: jury distrust of Keeler’s techniques played a role in most of last year’s high-profile acquittals, including those of alleged child-killers Kyle Bryant, James Bush, and Marquis Nelson.

Now, Keeler’s stained reputation will reach into federal court, where it threatens to corrupt the October trial of six alleged gang members — a trial at which Lopes is scheduled to testify, and Keeler is likely to. "[Keeler] is a central figure in this investigation and likely will be called by the defense," according to court documents filed by defense attorney Peter Parker.

It turns out that when Lopes got busted for the gun deal, at a gas station in Brookline, Keeler was there to question him in the Brookline police station. "He kept initiating, talking to me about a certain incident that occurred," Lopes testified in his most recent trial appearance, according to a transcript. The incident Keeler was pushing? The murder of Luis Carvalho.

Lopes gave a taped statement to Keeler that night; later, he worked out his deal with the feds, agreeing to testify against a dozen Cape Verdean men for a variety of shootings. He testified in two federal murder trials last summer. Both times, the jury took less than two hours to acquit the defendants. (In one, it took 90 minutes, "including a lunch break," according to a defense attorney.)

In the testimony in his third trial, Lopes again struck out. Six more alleged members of his Stonehurst gang were tried in federal court with Lopes as the key witness; three were acquitted of all charges, and three were convicted on selected charges — specifically, the incidents in which jurors could rely on independent witnesses other than Lopes. Indeed, every allegation that relied on Lopes’s testimony was rejected by the jury, points out defense attorney Albert Cullen.

The October trial, which includes charges in the Luis Carvalho murder, is Lopes’s final obligation to the feds; he will be freed in 2010 at the latest, at the age of 33, and has suggested in testimony that his deal might allow him to get out even sooner. Keeler, it seems, will also testify. With their track records, want to lay bets on the jury’s verdict?


Issue Date: March 18 - 24, 2005
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