Thursday, September 21, 2006

Cops: Arson (murder) plot targeted sex offenders

A Mastic man pleaded not guilty to attempted-murder charges yesterday 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 yesterday. "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.

"I was SHOCKED! SHOCKED! that the villagers would do such a thing when aroused." Yeah, sure. Would have been far from the first time that a registered sex offender's house burned to the ground, or that a registered sex offender trying to live within the law was murdered.

Bet the jury lets this "hardworking man," with a wife and a 2-year-old daughter to support, off scot-free.


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