Despite Reforms, Arsonist Gets Jail Time

April 15, 1992|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — Despite keeping himself sober for months and becoming a worker who "hungers to learn anything," the East Main Street man who broke into the Westminster Exchange and set several small fires in September willspend the next 18 months behind bars.

Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. yesterday sentenced James Henry Cassidy, 29, to prison terms of two years each on arson, burglary and breaking-and-entering convictions. Beck then suspended all but 18 months of those sentences and ordered them served concurrently.

The sentence was expected, since Cassidy entered into a plea agreement with the State's Attorney's Office on Feb. 11. In ex

change for having 14 of 17 charges against him dropped, Cassidy pleaded guilty to the remaining three and agreed to allow the judge to hear only the prosecution's version of the facts. Prosecutors also agreed to argue for no more than 18 months in jail.

Had Cassidy been found guilty on all 17 charges, he could have been sentenced to 116 years.

During the sentencing hearing yesterday, Cassidy's lawyer presented letters from his employer, Black & Decker, and from an alcohol and drug abuse counseling program.

"We can't find too many employees likeJames Cassidy," wrote Catherine Ward, his Black & Decker supervisor."He has adapted well to this work environment, become a team player,become a friend to many employees and most of all he has become a person that hungers to learn anything."

Joyce Tierney, his counselorat Junction Inc., said that "he is making progress in dealing with his alcoholism" and that he "has become quite goal-oriented concerningfinances, employment, religion and sobriety."

Cassidy had blamed alcoholism as one of the reasons for setting the fires, court testimony showed. He at one time did remodeling work in the retail and office mall at 15 E. Main St.

The fires -- in the Unique Jewelry store and in the Winchester Exchange management office on Sept. 6 -- 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, court records say. 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 Unit dog, brought in after the fires were extinguished, followed a scent trail to Cassidy's apartment. 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.

In addition to the jail time -- which will be served at the Carroll County Detention Center -- Cassidy was ordered to pay restitution of more than $5,500.

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