Jury begins deliberating former Manchester art teacher’s drug charges
MANCHESTER — Lisa Tagalakis took the stand Wednesday in Hillsborough County Superior Court North in an effort to convince jurors that she had no knowledge a boarder was selling drugs out of her house last year. She was the only defense witness.
Police and the prosecutor say she told ex-convict and tenant Robert Doane he could sell the drugs, but not in her house.
Jurors will begin their deliberations this morning on the 43-year-old’s two felony charges. She’s accused of conspiring with Doane, her 22-year-old boyfriend, and others to sell drugs out of her 151 Sagamore St. home in January and early February 2013. She’s also charged with common nuisance, an accusation her home was used for keeping or selling controlled drugs.
Tagalakis was living at the house with her twin sons, her boyfriend and the new tenant he’d recommended, when she is accused of agreeing to let Doane sell drugs from the house in return for a $100 a week rent payment.
Police detective Robert Bellenoit testified Wednesday morning that police watched Doane selling drugs to someone who pulled up in front of Tagalakis’ residence in February 2013.
Doane was then a suspect in a bank robbery and other robberies, so Tagalakis was asked to come to the police station for an interview. While Bellenoit said he and another officer spoke with Tagalakis in an “interview” room, Tagalakis said she was taken to an “interrogation” room.
And while Bellenoit said Tagalakis eventually told police she had made an agreement with Doane about drug sales outside the house, Tagalakis denied admitting she was aware of the drug sales. “Absolutely not,” she said.
In his opening argument Tuesday, as well as his cross examination of Bellenoit and his closing argument Wednesday, defense attorney Joseph Prieto repeatedly questioned why police did not videotape or audiotape the interview with Takalagis, because the new building police had moved into recently had cameras and microphones built into the “interrogation” room.
Bellenoit, a 12-year officer in Manchester and a detective for the past four and a half years, said he took notes during the initial interview with Tagalakis Feb. 5, 2013, and during a second interview the following day. He used them later to prepare his report, after which he destroyed the notes. He said that was standard practice because the information in the notes was now in the report.
Questioned by Prieto, Bellenoit said he didn’t know why he had made the decision to do the interview old style, with pen and paper, but he did. He said when Tagalakis was first interviewed, they were looking for information on Doane. They weren’t focused on her and her role in the drug sales.
Prieto kept pressing the issue, saying it would have been invaluable to have a tape to show jurors exactly what was said and the demeanor of the speaker. But Bellenoit wouldn’t bite. “It was documented,” he said. Prieto kept trying. If Bellenoit had to do it again, would he record it, Prieto asked. “No,” said Bellenoit, because the interview was documented.
During cross examination by Assistant County Attorney Michael Zaino, Tagalakis denied ever seeing pipes for smoking marijuana that were found by police on the floor and on a dresser in the bedroom she and her then-boyfriend, Kris White, shared. She denied telling police she had seen Doane package heroin he had placed on a platter in the room he rented and put a padlock on the door.
Under questioning by Zaino, Tagalakis conceded she’d rented a room before. When Zaino said she’d acknowledged to police that money was tight, so Doane’s $100 a week was a help, Tagalakis said: “Extra money is good.” But she insisted: “I had a good job.” At the time, she had been a teacher in the Manchester system for 18 years and was an art teacher at Manchester High School Central.
Fifteen months later, Zaino noted, things have changed: she’s divorced, she’s in a custody battle with her ex-husband and she was fired from her teaching job. “There’s a lot riding on the outcome of this case for you,” said Zaino. “Everything,” said Tagalakis.