Westminster Man Found Guilty Of Arson

14 Of 17 Charges Dropped In Plea Bargain With State

February 12, 1992|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — The East Main Street man charged with setting several small fires inthe Winchester Exchange building last September was found guilty on three of the 17 charges against him.

In a plea agreement with the State's Attorney's Office yesterday, James Henry Cassidy, 29, agreed to accept the prosecutor's statement of facts on personal property arson, breaking and entering, and burglary charges.

And while Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. convicted Cassidy on the three felony counts, the remaining 14 charges will be dropped andthe state's attorney will recommend he serve no more than 18 months in jail.

Beck scheduled sentencing for April 14. A presentencing investigation and an evaluation of his use of alcohol were also ordered to be completed by then.

Cassidy, who at one time did remodelingwork in the retail and office mall at 15 E. Main St., could have been sentenced to a total of 116 years in jail had he been found guilty on all 17 charges, which included arson, destruction, theft, and breaking and entering.

Those charges were levied after a nearly two-week investigation by city police and the State Fire Marshal's Office into the Sept. 6 fires.

The fires -- which were set in the Unique Jewelry store and in the Winchester Exchange management office -- and the breaking of windows, doors and electronic equipment caused more than $15,300 in damage, court records show.

Cassidy broke into the building from a third-story window, testimony showed. Investigators found broken panes of glass in the doors of the manager's office and jewelry shop and a footprint on the second floor. Blood was found on the floor outside the jewelry store, court records show.

A K-9 Unitdog, brought in after the fires were extinguished, followed a scent trail to Cassidy's apartment, testimony showed.

Afterward, police received a telephone tip implicating Cassidy. City police then searched his apartment and found baseball cards taken in a January 1990 theft from a shop formerly in the mall.

Dressed in blue jeans, a bulky cotton sweater, a denim jacket and sneakers, Cassidy stood quietly as his attorney -- public defender Barbara Kreiner -- explained the details of the plea arrangement to him and to the court. He did not speak to the judge during the 20-minute hearing.

Another part of theplea calls for Cassidy to pay more than $5,500 in restitution.

The three charges on which Cassidy was found guilty are arson and breaking and entering, in connection with the September fires; and burglary, in connection with the 1990 theft.

Combined, the three charges carry a maximum sentence of 25 years. The state's attorney is asking to have all but 18 months of any sentence suspended.

Cassidy is free on bail until his April sentencing.

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