Category: plea-agreement

Is DJ Creato’s Plea Agreement Fair?

Is DJ Creato’s Plea Agreement Fair?

On August 23, 2017, David ‘DJ’ Creato pled guilty to aggravated manslaughter in the October 2015 death of his toddler son, 3-year-old Brendan Creato. The guilty plea comes a mere two weeks before his second murder trial was set to begin, after a jury in the first murder trial could not reach an unanimous verdict on charges of murder and child endangerment. A few observations about the resolution of this case

    • This plea is part of a plea agreement. There are many factors why a high-profile case involving the alleged murder of a child results in a plea agreement. The prosecution may have reconsidered the weight of the evidence, the original mistrial and offered a deal the defendant couldn’t resist. Had a new jury found him not guilty, Creto would have walked free. The defense may have realized the possibility of life imprisonment or many decades in prison upon conviction at a new trial, and accepted.
    • The main evidence against the defendant is circumstantial. This means there is no direct evidence (such as a bloody knife or fingerprints) tying the defendant to his son’s death. Being the last person to see a decedent alive does not imply guilt. Even a child in his or her parent’s care immediately before he or she goes missing does not imply guilty. The strongest evidence against Creato is his unusual behavior pre-and-post death, including a sensational short-lived relationship with a young teenage woman and obsession with social and digital media.
    • Creato has pled guilty to aggravated manslaughter – not murder. Under the terms of the plea, he agreed that he “recklessly caused his son’s death, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life… by depriving Brendan of oxygen.” A few notes: Creato did not admit to purposeful murder – only reckless behavior causing murder. He admits to extreme indifference to human life and depriving his son of oxygen, but he does not admit how, when, or why. Although extremely unlikely, inadvertent reckless behavior may still fall into this type of plea.
    • Under the terms of the plea agreement, Creato faces 10 years in prison, of which he must serve 8 ½ before he is eligible for parole. As he has been held in Camden County Jail since January 2016, he has likely waived his entitlement to time served for the past nineteen months. Creato will not be eligible for parole until well into 2026.

 

This is a sad case all around: a child with so much potential was cheated of an opportunity to live a full, happy life. So many people will claim the plea agreement and results of this case are unfair. Other supporters may argue the prosecution’s offer compelled Creato to take a deal despite his innocence, and thus the system is unfair. It is only when we are bound to the duties of being an impartial jury member in these cases that our voices and votes have the strongest outcome. As observers to criminal cases, we are entitled to our opinions and the right to speak, write and argue innocence vs. guilt, but justice is never quite served. What do you think about the plea deal in this case?