^AM-Questionable Commutation, 3rd Ld-Writethru, a0670,0641
^Convicted killer freed on lies is back behind bars
^Eds: SUBS 4th graf `Yandle, 49..' to ADD that sentence was life without parole; SUBS 11th graf `It sat..' to CLARIFY that commutation request sat on desk for four years; SUBS 17th graf ``I guess..' to ADD that Yandle fathered two children while on furlough
^AP Photos pursuing
^By ALEXIS CHIU= ^Associated Press Writer=
BOSTON (AP) A convicted killer who was set free in part because of his claims of valor in Vietnam was taken into custody Wednesday after officials learned he held only a military desk job and was far from the fighting.
Joseph Yandle surrendered at his Rutland, Vt., apartment and was taken to a Massachusetts prison.
``It appears there was a massive fraud perpetrated here,'' said acting Gov. Paul Cellucci, who vowed to have the 1995 commutation revoked.
Yandle, 49, was convicted of first-degree murder in the killing of Joseph Reppucci, the manager of the Mystic Bottled Liquors store in Medford, during a robbery on June 20, 1972. Yandle drove the getaway car after his partner robbed the store and shot Reppucci. He was sentenced to life without parole.
After 23 years in prison, Yandle won his freedom from then-Gov. William F. Weld after telling the nation on the CBS news program ``60 Minutes'' and through other news outlets that his crime was fueled by a heroin addiction he used to numb the nightmares brought on by his tour of duty in Vietnam.
Yandle recently admitted that although he is a veteran, he served only as a Marine clerk in Okinawa, Japan, and never fought in Vietnam.
``I had to find a way to get someone to listen to my plea for commutation,'' he told The Boston Globe for Wednesday's editions. ``The fact is, I just wanted to go home after 23 years in prison, and I had no other opportunity of ever getting home.''
The Globe and ``60 Minutes'' said they never checked with the military to verify the documents that Yandle now says he fabricated.
``Back at the time, these records were very, very good forgeries,'' Kevin Tedesco, ``60 Minutes'' spokesman, told The Associated Press. ``It's one of these things that fooled everyone.''
Yandle's commutation request was first approved by the state Board of Pardons in 1991 after gaining national media attention and support from veterans around the country.
It sat on Weld's desk for four years. When he finally backed the release, Weld said Yandle ``went to serve his country in Vietnam. He returned a scarred man and he has served a lengthy prison sentence.''
In a statement, Weld said he supports Cellucci's decision to seek to revoke the commutation.
``In part, my decision was based on Mr. Yandle's military service in Vietnam and the outpouring of support for his commutation by veterans' organizations,'' Weld said. ``I take responsibility for my decision ... but justice demands that he serve out the sentence for he crime he committed.''
A hearing date on the Celluci's request to have the commutation revoked was to be set next Wednesday. The Massachusetts Parole Board was separately moving to determine if Yandle violated parole by submitting false information.
Yandle admitted his lie to CBS after B.G. ``Jug'' Burkett, a Dallas businessman, uncovered the scam while researching Vietnam heroes for a book.
``I guess I've got to face this lie now,'' Yandle said. ``I have an 11-year-old I'm trying to teach values to. I guess he also has to know that there are consequences for the actions we take.'' Yandle fathered two children while on weekend furloughs.
In the end, Yandle may have been among the least surprised when the tangle of lies unwound.
``Ever since the commutation, I've been waiting, knowing this other shoe would drop,'' he said.
(Copyright 1998 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)