Man, 21, pleads guilty in Charles County arsons


One of five men accused of setting a string of residential arson fires in Charles County gave up his right to a second trial yesterday, agreeing to a prison sentence of at least five years.

Michael McIntosh Everhart, 21, of Waldorf, pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiracy to commit arson in connection with fires at 35 homes under construction in the Hunters Brooke development in December 2004. Authorities have said it was the largest residential arson in state history.

According to court papers, Everhart plotted with Patrick Walsh, 21, of Fort Washington; Jeremy Parady, 22, of Accokeek; and Aaron Speed, 22, and Roy McCann, 23, both of Waldorf.

In the early-morning hours of Dec. 6, 2004, Everhart was part of a group that traveled to Hunters Brooke. The men poured flammable materials into containers and placed the containers in and around the houses. None of the targeted homes was occupied at the time.

No single motive can explain why arsonists set fire to Hunters Brooke and caused about $10 million in damage, according to law enforcement officials.

While the arrival of new minority residents in Charles County fueled racist anger in some suspects, others seemed obsessed with igniting a spectacular fire to show the power of a makeshift gang and to attract members, witnesses and prosecutors have said in criminal court proceedings and documents.

Parady and Speed pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit arson and were sentenced to more than seven and eight years in prison, respectively.

Walsh was convicted in September 2005 of conspiracy to commit arson and of 35 counts of arson, and he was sentenced to 19 1/2 years in prison.

McCann is scheduled for trial in June 2007.

Everhart, whose first trial ended with a hung jury, now faces a mandatory minimum penalty of five years and a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus has set sentencing for Sept. 8. The loss attributed to Everhart is more than $3.2 million, prosecutors said.

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