Howard man pleads guilty to setting fires at home, business

Lawyer had questioned his competency to stand trial

February 06, 2010|By Tricia Bishop | tricia.bishop@baltsun.com

A 55-year-old Howard County man - tentatively diagnosed last year as possibly too psychotic, suicidal and severely depressed to stand trial - pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to arson for setting fire to his Highland home and electronics recycling business on Halloween 2008.

According to a statement of facts contained in Scott Daniel Wilson's plea agreement, he jumped into his Jeep after setting the blaze and "narrowly missed hitting a Howard County" firefighter responding to the fire. Two months later, he "poured screws and glass on the driveway" of a potential government witness against him, and a week after that, he threatened to kill two other witnesses and one person's grandchildren, the Jan. 5 document says. Wilson pleaded not guilty to harassing or intimidating the witnesses.

He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a minimum of five on the arson count, according to the Maryland U.S. attorney's office, which announced the plea Friday.

Wilson's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Sean P. Vitrano, had filed a motion for a competency evaluation of his client in April, saying Wilson was restless, experiencing "significant memory lapses" and "repeatedly" expressed plans to kill himself. Wilson's ex-wife, with whom he lived, had died in December 2007, and grief led him to attempt suicide in February 2008 and again in March, the motion said. Wilson, who also has several Maryland drunken-drinking convictions, allegedly told a neighbor he planned to kill himself in a fire.

A forensic psychiatrist hired by the defense concluded, after a phone interview with the defendant, that Wilson "may not be competent to stand trial," according to court records. But a scheduled competency hearing was dropped after the defendant was evaluated at a federal medical facility in North Carolina at the judge's request.

Vitrano did not immediately return a call requesting clarification.

Wilson's sentencing has been set for July 30.

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