Defendant in arson held without bail

Cecil man accused of making threats against witnesses

September 01, 2001|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

A Cecil County man charged with federal civil rights violations in the burning of an Elkton house where six Hispanic men resided was ordered held without bond yesterday after prosecutors alleged that he was intimidating witnesses.

Christopher Cimorose, 33, was ordered to remain at the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center in Baltimore - commonly known as Supermax - by U.S. Magistrate Judge Beth P. Gesner during a detention hearing in federal court in Baltimore.

"What I've heard here is substantial evidence of a very, very troubling crime," Gesner said in ordering him back to jail to await trial.

Cimorose was charged in a federal indictment unsealed Thursday with civil rights violations related to the July 15 fire, including interfering with housing and using fire to commit a federal felony. Because the duplex was a rental property, he also was charged with arson affecting interstate commerce.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan P. Luna argued in U.S. District Court yesterday that Cimorose should not be released because has been intimidating witnesses who may testify against him.

One potential witness "was fearful of cooperating with police" and did so only after being threatened with obstruction-of-justice charges, Luna said.

"Despite knowledge of an FBI hate-crime investigation, he [Cimorose] still tried to intimidate a witness," the prosecutor said. "We believe that this case, when it goes to trial, will be highly dependent on the witnesses, the eyewitnesses in this case. If they don't show up, we don't have much of a case."

As Gesner announced her decision, Cimorose's girlfriend of 16 years, Treasa Allen, began crying. As he was led out of the courtroom, Allen told him, "I love you," through heavy sobs.

Cimorose's attorney, Gary W. Christopher, an assistant federal public defender, argued that his client had "better sense" than to do anything that could jeopardize his case.

Murrell "Sonny" Webb, 19, also of Cecil County, was indicted in the case on the same charges as Cimorose. He has agreed to surrender to federal authorities within a week.

A 17-year-old boy from Elkton also was charged in state court Thursday as a juvenile with one count of first-degree arson and three counts of reckless endangerment.

Luna said yesterday that three of the six Hispanic men who lived in the house were home at the time of the incident. The men escaped unharmed after neighbors called 911.

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