The Million-Dollar Jackpot

A Brooklyn dope dealer hid it in a closet. A robbery crew found it. One gangster got screwdrivered to death. Another one just got screwed.

The star of the show, Derrick Gordon, was dressed in a white T-shirt and blue jeans, and he wore an all-white Yankee cap with its straight bill pulled down low. The behemoth Gordon nodded through his Miranda warnings before Assistant District Attorney Rob Walsh started him down his road to ruin by simply saying, "Mr. Gordon, why don't you take it from the top and tell me what happened."

Over the next 33 minutes, Gordon matter-of-factly gave investigators all they needed. He provided chapter and verse of a robbery that had ended in a particularly gruesome death.

The videotaped confession, coupled with a statement Gordon gave to detectives Louis Pepe and Luis Yero, was so incriminating that the district attorney's office made no pretrial offer to Gordon. Twenty-five to life, the maximum, take it or leave it.

The only question left after viewing the tape was, why did Gordon talk so much? It's not as if anyone else had rolled over on Gordon—his gun-wielding pal, Trims, and the other robbers have never been caught. Gordon bore no signs of physical abuse. He wasn't offered a deal, and he wasn't cooperating against someone else. Yet he calmly gave it up, all of it. He didn't even try to diminish his role in the fatal attack. At a September 17 hearing on the defense's attempt to suppress Gordon's confession, it became clear why the thug talked so much.

Detective Pepe admitted that after Gordon initially denied having anything to do with the murder, Pepe used a series of lies to trick Gordon into confessing. Most were the typical kind of fibs that cops use on suspects: Four witnesses identified Gordon in a lineup (only one did); his DNA was all over the crime scene (they had only one cigarette butt); and his co-conspirators were talking and were blaming him (the cops hadn't even identified them). In this case, however, the cops used an unusually big whopper. They told Gordon that Davis had died of a stroke, not from being pistol-whipped, stabbed repeatedly with a screwdriver, and asphyxiated with the pillowcase.

Krinsky argued to the judge that the detectives' ruse effectively deceived Gordon into waiving his Miranda rights and, as such, his statements and videotaped confession should be thrown out as "fruit of the poisonous tree."

Judge L. Priscilla Hall acknowledged that the confession concerned her. "Most of the lies that the officer told," she said in court, "are nothing out of the ordinary, except the one where he tells him the person didn't die because of a homicide but he died because of a stroke. . . . That seems to be a little different—substantially different." She told the lawyers on both sides to file briefs on the issue.

But for all the concern she voiced at that hearing, her ruling on October 11 was anticlimactic: Her written decision allowed Gordon's confession to be used, and it contained no comment on the detectives' tactics.

When Gordon's trial started a few days later, one of the first things the prosecutor showed the jury was the videotaped confession that Gordon's lawyer had unsuccessfully fought to keep out of the jurors' sight .

In the end, however, Gordon was pretty lucky. Last Friday, the jury found him guilty of robbery but acquitted him on the charge of second-degree murder.

The fact that John Davis was murdered less than three weeks after moving his money into Tara MacGregor's home had prompted Gordon's attorney to accuse her during the trial of being the "mastermind" behind the crime.

"You set the whole thing up, didn't you, Miss MacGregor?" Krinsky said.

MacGregor responded with an indignant "Absolutely not!" She wasn't shaken then or at any time during her tear-filled testimony. In fact, if Gordon's own words weren't enough to sink him on the murder charge, then MacGregor's at least were enough to get him on the robbery. A blonde with dark eyebrows who looks like a cross between Marcia and Jan Brady, MacGregor told the jury between sobs that it was Gordon who put the gun to her temple when she walked into the second-floor apartment, and Gordon who ordered her to the floor, and Gordon who threatened to hurt her unless she told them where the money was. It was also Gordon, she said, who added insult to her boyfriend's mortal injuries by musing out loud while holding her hostage, "I wonder why he's with you. You have a fat ass."

There are a million neatly bundled reasons why Derrick Gordon got into trouble. One of them is that he just didn't know how to keep his mouth shut.

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