Waldo County man sentenced to 16 years in drug debt killing of Florida man
BELFAST — In addition to serving 16 years in prison, Daniel Porter of Jackson was ordered Monday to pay Jerry Perdomo's family $11,694.50 restitution to cover the family's travel expenses over the last year, as well as his funeral and burial expenses.
Porter, 25, was sentenced in Waldo County Superior Court April 22. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the Feb. 16, 2012, shooting death of Perdomo, an Orange City, Fla., resident. Perdomo was 33 when he died inside the Jackson home where Porter lived.
Justice Robert Murray sentenced Porter to 30 years in prison, with all but 16 years suspended. After his release, he will serve four years of probation, during which he is prohibited from using or possessing alcohol or drugs.
Porter, who said he met Perdomo in May 2011, told the court, "It didn't take much convincing to get me on board," with a plan to supply the Bangor area with oxycodone that Perdomo sent up from Florida on a monthly basis. The drug, a potent pain medication with high street demand, is easier to acquire in Florida due to the many walk-in pain clinics that prescribe it. "At the time, I justified my drug dealing by thinking that I was helping people by getting them the drugs for substantially less than anyone else could," Porter told the courtroom during his statement.
Over time, the relationship between the two men soured, though the party responsible for the degradation depends on whom you ask. According to Porter, Perdomo held him responsible on multiple occasions when others he'd brought into the endeavor failed to pay Perdomo. Perdomo's family believes that Porter refused to pay a debt that he owed. Regardless of which party is correct, what followed was the Feb. 16 road trip made by Perdomo from his Florida home to Maine, something defense attorney Jeffrey Silverstein pointed out was a different modus operandi from his other trips to Maine, which were made by plane. Silverstein stated it was his belief that this change was due to Perdomo's desire to bring along a weapon.
It was later that evening that Porter shot Perdomo in the side of the head, which he maintains he did to protect himself and his family from imminent, life-threatening harm. The state countered by pointing out that the threats were not just from Perdomo, that Porter himself sent a message to Perdomo just one month before the shooting stating that he "could put [Perdomo] in a wood chipper and no one would find [him]."
Again, despite the differing opinions of who was to blame, those in the courtroom showed very little animosity. Instead, there was sadness on both sides for all that was lost.
For one family, it was a son, father, husband and brother that will never return. For the other, it was the loss of an "upstanding" guy who got "in over his head," as Porter's uncle, Wayne Porter, said in his statement. Wayne Porter also wrote that the nefarious business both had involved themselves in was what lead them all to the courtroom that day. "All I know is this didn't take place because the two of them were selling Girl Scout cookies," his statement read.
Perdomo's family acknowledged Jerry, too, had been guilty of misdeeds. But, as his step-father of 25 years, Carlos Diaz, stated, "He was a good son, a great father to his children. What he did for our country [Perdomo had served as a marine before being honorably discharged, then went on to become a firefighter for his community] and for our family – we are not going to let his name be dragged down by his recent mistakes. There are some mistakes he made, but he did not deserve to be murdered."
During the Perdomo family's impact statements, Porter sat stoically, staring straight ahead while occasionally bouncing one of his chained feet. It wasn't until Tonya Perdomo, Jerry Perdomo's wife, admonished Porter that he finally turned to face an anguish so clear it was nearly palpable.
"I want you to look at me," said Tonya Perdomo. "I want to know what his last moments were like." She then said to an attentive Porter, "Did he say something [before he died]? Did he?" she demanded, to which Porter only lifted his hands in a seeming display of confusion as to whether or not he should answer.
She continued, telling Porter, "I would always tell Jerry [that] I didn't know where he ended and I began. Now that he was taken from me I know; there was no difference. Our kids no longer have their father and most of the time they don't have me either, because I can't get past it." Before reading a letter written by the couple's now 11-year-old daughter, Tonya Perdomo told Porter she hoped he got what he deserved, adding, "I know your family is suffering too – I pray for them."
While reading the letter from her daughter, Tonya Perdomo had to stop briefly to compose herself. A portion of the letter said, "No matter what I find out about you I will always love you," Perdomo's daughter wrote, "I would do anything to talk to you; to snuggle. When I get to heaven one day I want you to hug me and hold me so tight and never let go."
Underlying good, despite recent mistakes, was a common thread in the impact statements from both Porter's and Perdomo's families. Of the 13 people who spoke on Porter's behalf, almost all recounted their utter disbelief after learning that he'd been arrested for the shooting death of Perdomo.
"To know Daniel is to love him," Ben English, a longtime friend of Porter read during his statement. It was a sentiment shared by Tanya Hubbard, Porter's onetime teacher and longtime friend. "[But] once drugs and alcohol take hold, many bad things can take place," Hubbard said.
Porter remained largely emotionless during the statements, giving a slight smile as a longtime friend recounted a joke the two had shared. But when Porter's mother, Debra Porter, took her turn at the podium, he reached for his first tissue of the day, wiping away tears as she turned to face the Perdomo family. "I want to express my sincere condolences," she told them, through tears of her own. "I pray you find strength in God and your family." Turning back to face Justice Murray, she said, "I pray you grant leniency, so he can give back to the community he loves so much."
During a brief recess after the impact statements concluded, Debra Porter could be seen looking at Gladys Diaz as both women wept. Porter then crossed the aisle separating them to offer her condolences again. Diaz stood to embrace Debra Porter, and for nearly a minute the two women clung to one another, drawn together by their mutual despair.
When court resumed it was Daniel Porter's turn to formally address the court. After recounting insight into how he became involved with Perdomo, he turned to face the Perdomo family, just as his mother had nearly an hour earlier.
"Mrs. Perdomo, I understand you probably hate me – I'm the man that took your children's father from you. That is something I go to sleep with every night and wake up with every morning. I'm beyond sorry for my role. I know you think I'm smug," he told her, alluding to reports of him smirking during other appearances. "But Jerry was my friend for a good portion of the year – he spent the night at my house, had dinner with me many times, but the argument escalated so quickly. I believe it could very well have been Jerry standing here today talking to my family."
Porter addressed assertions that his actions after the crime clearly demonstrated a lack of remorse, actions including misleading police, hiding evidence, a spending spree and a visit to family that Porter himself said at the time would be "his last visit as a free man." He told the court those actions should be attributed to panic. "I truly panicked," he told the court. "And I'm ashamed of myself. My actions were the opposite of what I should have done. Every minute that went by was another I couldn't take back."
After Porter finished his statement both sides made last-minute arguments for Justice Murray's consideration – Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea pushing for Porter to serve the full 20 years agreed upon in the plea agreement, and Attorney Silverstein lobbying for closer to 10 years.
In the end Justice Murray met the requests somewhere in the middle, handing down 16 years to be served in prison. Murray stated that while Porter's involvement in the drug trade and his actions after the crime were aggravating factors, his young age and the fact that he had no prior criminal history had to be considered as mitigating factors.
After Justice Murray finished speaking, the mostly filled courtroom began to empty with the Perdomo family leading the exodus. As Porter shuffled toward an opposing exit, a crying member of his family called out to remind Porter, "I love you buddy." Porter continued moving out of the courtroom, labored by ankle chains, raising his hand slightly to show he'd heard.
Contact Erica Thoms by sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org.