Humberto Pepin-Tavares, 44, thought he had a good idea. Known as Pepin on the street, he was a drug dealer in the Bronx, and caught a 12 year federal sentence for his efforts. But Pepin had a plan.
He heard about how people talked their way out of prison. He heard all the stories on the street about how guys with long sentences would tell the feds about other crimes and be given a pat on the back and a free pass out of prison. Pepin was no fool. If others could do it, so could he.
According to Newsday, shortly after his drug conviction in March, 2002, Pepin made the decision to tell investigator about some crimes. Serious crimes. Murders. Surely, this would be of interest to them. But Pepin’s plan had one flaw. You see, the murders Pepin had to offer were murders that he committed.
He talked about killing Jose Rosario in 1992 and Carlos Madrid in 1995. Then he talked about dismembering their bodies to hide the murders. And once he started talking about the murders, Pepin just couldn’t stop.
“Nothing short of a piece of duct tape across his lips could have kept [him] from confessing over and over again,” said Judge Jack Weinstein in a decision filed earlier in the case.
Pepin was, as one might suppose, charged with the murders. He offered to plead guilty in exchange for life in prison, but Attorney General Michael Mukasey refused. Pepin was tried for capital murder in the Eastern District of New York.
At trial, his attorneys, Lou Freedman and David Lewis, did their best. Pepin contended that he wasn’t a cold-blooded murderer, but someone trying to defend himself from other cold-blooded murderers. He was just better at it than they were.
In his defense, Pepin argued that the killings were done in self-defense. Defense witnesses provided evidence that both victims had wanted to kill Pepin.
The jury didn’t bite. It’s not that unusual that drug dealers want to kill each other, so the victims’ feelings toward Pepin were likely similar to Pepin’s feelings toward the victims. Pepin was convicted. Now it’s going to the penalty phase.
I spoke with David Lewis about Pepin yesterday. Only half-joking, David told me that if I wanted to know all about the killings, I should just ask Pepin. He’d tell me. He’ll tell anyone. He would love to tell the story. Again and again. Judge Weinstein’s “duct tape” crack was probably an understatement. He’d just keep talking under the duct tape.
It may be that Pepin’s openness about the murders, his willingness to talk about them freely to anyone who asks, will work in his favor during the penalty phase. It may raise implicit questions about his sanity, or perhaps his intelligence, that will sway a jury to think that he shouldn’t be put to death. The dismemberment part brings a certain “color” to the killings, but Judge Weinstein plans to tell the jurors not to consider it when deciding on penalty. As if that’s the sort of thing one can easily ignore.
While twelve years in federal prison (not Club Fed, mind you, as that’s not where the Pepin’s of the world tend to be sent) is no fun, but for guys like Pepin, it shouldn’t have come as a great surprise. They know there’s a risk for doing what they do, and they know that if they stick around long enough, there’s a strong likelihood that they will get caught.
But if ever a person talked himself into the death chamber, it was Pepin. Not a good plan.