- The Washington Times - Friday, April 6, 2001

Prince George's County police yesterday arrested a University of Maryland student in connection with last weekend's rowdy bonfires in College Park after the Terrapins' loss in the NCAA Final Four basketball tourney.
Police charged Josh Weidman, 23, with first- and second-degree malicious burning and destruction of property. Mr. Weidman was being held at the Hyattsville district station last night and could not be reached for comment. Police said a tip from a fellow student led police to arrest Mr. Weidman yesterday afternoon.
Police said Mr. Weidman is one of hundreds of students caught on videotape contributing to the estimated 60 bonfires throughout College Park. Mr. Weidman specifically was caught contributing to the bonfire that destroyed part of a Comcast cable-television fiber-optic line at Dickinson Avenue and Knox Road, police said.
The destruction knocked out service for about 30,000 nearby customers and caused an estimated $325,000 in damages.
If convicted of all charges, Mr. Weidman, a junior, could face up to eight years in prison and $8,000 in fines. He also could face suspension or expulsion from the university if he is convicted of the felony charges.
The university's Web site shows that Mr. Weidman is a member of the school's wrestling team, and describes him as "Maryland's giant killer."
Police Chief John Farrell said yesterday authorities will continue to investigate and encouraged those caught on the videotape taken by undercover police to surrender.
"You know who you are," Chief Farrell said at a news conference yesterday afternoon. "I'm suggesting you turn yourselves in so we can resolve this quickly… . We will continue to do whatever we need to do to make sure that justice is done."
Chief Farrell said Comcast television will air footage of the videotape of the night's activities throughout the week. The footage contains a number of close-up shots of students who participated. He also asked members of the student body and residents of the surrounding community to watch the footage and phone in leads to authorities if they can recognize anyone in the video.
"We want to identify every single individual who put the public's safety at risk that night," Chief Farrell said. "We want to show that there are consequences for criminal behavior. And we want to see to it that this doesn't happen in the future."
Mr. Weidman, originally from Hershey, Pa., was taken into custody about 2 p.m. at his College Park residence, which is at the corner of the street where one of the bonfires burned Saturday night after the game.
Students threw mattresses, sofas and chairs onto the bonfire. As a result, the flames shot some 30 feet into the air and burned the cable line.
Doug McKenzie, Comcast vice president and general manager, said yesterday his company restored cable to customers by 8:30 p.m. Sunday.
"We are very upset about what happened," Mr. McKenzie said, added however that he is happy that police have made at least one arrest in the case.
More than 1,000 students tore down lampposts, lit bonfires, ripped down private fences and even stole gasoline from residents' sheds after the Duke Blue Devils beat the Maryland Terrapins in the NCAA basketball tournament semifinal game Saturday night, College Park officials said.
Students also attacked Prince George's County firefighters throwing rocks, sticks, bottles and TV sets at them as they tried to extinguish dozens of fires, authorities have said.
Damage to the community is estimated at $500,000.
Chief Farrell yesterday chastised the students' behavior. He said about 60 police officers and a helicopter were dispatched to control the crowds that night.
"It was just a basketball game," he said. "This is expensive for the taxpayers. This is insanity. This is a world turned upside down."
Police are asking anyone with information on the identities of the involved students to call Crime Solvers at 301/735-1111.

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