Former high school art teacher gets suspended sentence in drug case
MANCHESTER — Hillsborough County Superior Court North Judge Gillian Abramson Tuesday gave former Manchester High School Central art teacher Lisa Tagalakis a suspended 2- to 4-year sentence on her felony conviction of common nuisance for maintaining a house where drugs were sold.
“I think there’s little chance you will reoffend,” said Abramson.
Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Michael Valentine had argued for a 12-month sentence in the House of Corrections, to be followed by two years of probation and a fine of $400, equal to the money she received in rent from the drug dealer using her home.
A jury May 8 convicted Tagalakis, 43, of knowingly allowing her home at 151 Sagamore St. to be used for the illegal keeping or selling of controlled drugs. The felony is punishable by a sentence of 3½ to 7 years in prison and a $4,000 fine.
Jurors found Tagalakis innocent of a felony charge of conspiracy to sell drugs. She was accused of taking $100 a week in rent from ex-convict Robert Doane, who was selling drugs, primarily heroin, out of her home in January and February 2013.
Tagalakis, now divorced and no longer using her married name, Fedor, was living at the Sagamore Street house with her 4-year-old twin boys and her 22-year-old boyfriend, Kristopher White, when White asked if his friend, Doane, could rent a room there.
Valentine said Tagalakis knew the kind of damage drugs can do and in one part of her life, as a teacher, she tried to set people on the right track. But in her private life, he said, she allowed those drugs, primarily heroin, to be sold out of her home.
“The defendant knew Robert Doane was selling drugs out of that home,” said Valentine, who said she told police that she saw Doane cutting drugs on a CD case. He said she spoke freely to police, when she thought Doane was the target.
Valentine said Tagalakis told police: “It was handy to have Robert Doane there because he could watch the kids.” Valentine said Tagalakis’ then 4-year-old twins had access to the bedroom she shared with her young boyfriend, where drugs and a loaded stolen handgun were accessible.
Her tone changed, he said, when she realized she was a target and claimed the police lied, that she had never told them those things.
“This was a crime of greed,” said Valentine, because Doane was paying Tagalakis $100 a week to rent the room. Valentine said a $400 fine would be: “equivalent to her ill-gotten gains.”
Defense attorney Joseph Prieto said Tagalakis has lost everything, her job, her retirement and her house. He said she has received a September foreclosure notice for the Sagamore Street residence.
“It’s a terrible lesson and Lisa continues to live it,” said Prieto, who said Tagalakis also has serious health issues.
Prieto said that because of her intellect and her artistic talents: “She will get through this.”
He expects her to achieve her goal of opening an art studio.
Although she is now a convicted felon, said Prieto, he and she will be back before Abramson in seven or eight years seeking to have the conviction annulled.
The defense had submitted medical documents and a letter from Tagalakis that Abramson acknowledged.
“It was a good letter,” she said.
Tagalakis, who was the only defense witness at the trial and at sentencing, told Abramson: “I’ve lost a lot.” She said the last thing she wants is to be separated from her children and said what she wrote in the letter “is from my heart.”
Abramson said: “I think there is little chance you will reoffend.” She also said Tagalakis is not a threat to the community and those factors, along with Tagalakis’ health issues, are mitigating factors with respect to sentencing.
In addition to the suspended sentence, Abramson ordered Tagalakis to perform 150 hours of community service, including 50 hours in lieu of a fine, to be completed within six months.
Doane was convicted in March of drug sales and sentenced to 10 to 40 years in prison as a career criminal. White pleaded guilty to three felony charges and Abramson gave him suspended sentences, with reviews every 90 days to ensure he is complying with programs at the Veterans Administration, and doing community service