A former Carroll real estate agent failed to persuade the state's second-highest court to overturn an arson conviction stemming from a 1993 fire at his Westminster home.
In a brief opinion issued last week, the Court of Special Appeals said the jury hearing Charles Amidee Stair Jr.'s arson case was provided with sufficient evidence to find him guilty of arson.
Stair, who was sentenced to sev
en years in state prison, had sought to have the conviction overturned for insufficient evidence, inadmissible testimony about his marital and financial problems and an incorrect charge. The state's intermediate appellate court disagreed with all three arguments.
"Evidence showed that appellant might have had a motive to set the fire," a three-judge panel wrote. "The evidence was sufficient to support a rational inference that appellant was the criminal agent."
Stair has been free on unsecured
bond since his sentencing last May, but may be required to surrender to police in a matter of days, said Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr., who presided over the case and handed down the sentence. It was not clear yesterday whether an appeal to the Court of Appeals would allow him to remain free on bond.
A Carroll jury convicted Stair, 45,
of arson and reckless endangerment on Jan. 27, 1994, after 11 hours of deliberations over two days.
He was charged with setting fire to a house at 152 W. Main St., which was owned by him and his estranged wife. The blaze, which occurred March 17, 1993, caused more than $50,000 damage to the refurbished 90-year-old house.
The appellate court vacated the reckless endangerment sentence and conviction, saying the crime was included within the arson conviction. However, the action has no effect on Stair's seven-year sentence.
During last year's sentencing hearing, Stair did not address the court, but his attorney, Ronald A. Silkworth, said he already had paid a terrible price for the fire.
"In this case, he has lost his family, his wife, his children, his job and his reputation," Mr. Silkworth said then. "His reputation is held in dis
grace in Carroll County. He has suffered greatly."
Mr. Silkworth said Stair was a successful member of society who never had been in trouble with the law. In a request for probation before judgment, Mr. Silkworth said Stair should be given "one bite at the apple" because the arson did not stem from any desire for profit. The attorney said the fire stemmed from a messy divorce involving Stair and his estranged wife.
Mr. Silkworth could not be reached for comment yesterday.