Convicted killer admits setting fire to jail cell

Brill, serving life in killing, gets an additional 5 years

July 28, 2004|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A former Columbia resident who was accused of setting fire to his jail cell hours after he was sentenced to life in prison for the brutal slaying of 14-year-old Ashley Nicole Mason pleaded guilty yesterday to reckless endangerment and was sentenced to an additional five years in prison.

Scott Jory Brill's actions were dangerous and placed several people at risk, including fellow inmates at the Howard County Detention Center and jail staff and volunteers, said Howard Circuit Judge Lenore R. Gelfman before imposing the maximum possible penalty.

Brill, one of two men convicted of murder in the November 2000 stabbing and choking death of Mason, is serving a life sentence at the Maryland House of Correction Annex in Jessup. A second man, Frederick James Moore, is also serving a life sentence for his role in the murder of the Long Reach High School freshman.

Yesterday, prosecutor Brendan Clary called the fire an event that "involved some degree of enterprise, some degree of planning."

After discovering the early-morning fire, which was quenched by the jail's sprinkler system, in Brill's cell Dec. 14, 2002, a detention center lieutenant found a makeshift candle - a stick of butter and a shoestring - and badly burned blankets and a jump suit, Clary said. The lieutenant did not find matches or a lighter, according to court documents.

When the lieutenant let Brill out of his smoky cell, and before he could handcuff him, Brill ran up the steps, according to court documents. The lieutenant used pepper spray and was able to detain Brill, Clary said.

"This was not a trivial act of mischief," Clary said. " ... It was a dangerous act."

But Brill's public defender, Mary Pizzo, said that while her client's actions were reckless, he did not intend to hurt anyone. That day was distressing for her client, she said. She asked Gelfman to impose a shorter sentence, one within the one to three years recommended by state sentencing guidelines, that would run concurrently with his life term.

"It was a particularly emotional day," she said. "Mr. Brill was just 19 years old ... and certainly, he was very young for all these things to have happened, but they did."

Brill, now 22, was convicted in October 2001 of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison Dec. 13, 2002, in the killing of Mason, whose body was found in a wooded area behind a Columbia Pizza Hut.

Brill told investigators that he had stabbed the teen once in the stomach only "after she was dead" and had choked her, but "not all the way." A medical examiner said Mason had been stabbed 34 times and strangled.

Brill and Moore, 25, had partied with Mason in the hours before her death, according to court testimony.

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