If anyone has doubts about how seriously Maryland takes the crime of arson, the sentencing of a former police chief should make it clear. While the man’s crimes were particularly egregious, the testimony from victims showed the human toll of arson even when no one is physically harmed by the act.
Last month, the judge in the case sentenced the 71-year-old man to eight life sentences and an additional 75 years in prison. He has been in prison since he was arrested two years ago after law enforcement finally were able to connect a dozen fires over six counties dating back to 2011 and zero in on him as their suspect.
Fires were targeted acts of revenge
While no one was killed in the fires, the man who was once Laurel’s police chief was convicted of eight counts of attempted murder. That’s because many of the fires were set to people’s homes in the middle of the night.
The fires, according to prosecutors, were all acts of revenge by the defendant against people whom he believed had wronged him. Victims included fellow law enforcement officials and another police chief, two chiropractors and even his nephew (who had deleted him on Facebook).
The State’s Attorney for Howard County, where the man was tried, called the fires, which were set using gasoline, “evil and terrifying….” His attorney, who says they’re looking at avenues for appeal, argued throughout the trial that all evidence against his client was circumstantial.
Arson offenses, sentences can vary significantly
Obviously, there are different degrees of arson crimes and related offenses like malicious burning. However, even a conviction for malicious burning, which is when people “maliciously set fire to or burn the personal property of another” that’s valued at under $1,000 can carry a sentence of up to 18 months behind bars and a fine.
Fire is difficult to control. Once a fire starts, you may have no way of determining or controlling how far it spreads and what damage is done. Further, many fires aren’t intentionally or maliciously set.
If you or a loved one is facing an arson charge, don’t underestimate the potential consequences. Getting experienced legal guidance is a good first step toward protecting your rights and your future.