- The Washington Times - Monday, December 27, 2004

A federal magistrate judge yesterday ordered a suspect in this month’s arson fires at an upscale Charles County housing development released on home detention until trial.

Michael M. Everhart, 20, of Waldorf, was the second suspect in the fires to be released into the custody of his parents.

Roy T. McCann Jr., 22, of Waldorf, was released on home detention last week. Mr. McCann was still in custody yesterday while authorities worked out details of his electronic monitoring.

Mr. Everhart did not comment as he walked out of U.S. District Court in Greenbelt with family members.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Donna Sanger did not oppose Mr. Everhart’s release during a short hearing, telling Chief Magistrate Judge Jillyn Schulze that further information on Mr. Everhart’s role in the fires prompted prosecutors to determine that he could be released. Miss Sanger did not say what that information was.

Mr. Everhart’s attorney, William Brennan, said a defense investigation yielded material that persuaded prosecutors to agree to Mr. Everhart’s release. He also did not comment after the hearing.

Mr. Everhart and Mr. McCann are among six men facing federal arson charges in connection with a series of fires set Dec. 6 at a construction site in the Hunters Brooke neighborhood of Indian Head. The fires, called the largest residential arson case in Maryland history, destroyed 10 houses and damaged 16 others in varying stages of completion. The fires caused an estimated $10 million in damages.

Authorities say the men kicked in the doors of the unoccupied houses, splashed ignitable liquids onto the floors and set the buildings alight. Miss Sanger said last week that more arrests could be made but that investigators feel confident they have the ringleader and the core of the group responsible for the fires.

Last week, Aaron L. Speed, 21, of Waldorf, and Patrick S. Walsh, 20, of Fort Washington, were ordered held until trial.

Michael “White Mike”Gilbert, 21, of Fort Washington, is in custody until a detention hearing scheduled for Jan. 10. Jeremy D. Parady, 20, of Accokeek, was ordered held pending a medical evaluation.

Authorities say Mr. Walsh came up with the plan to set the fires to bring attention to the men’s car club, the Unseen Cavaliers. The men met on Wednesday nights during the summer in the parking lot of a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant off of Old Crain Highway in Waldorf.

Mr. Everhart told investigators that the fires were the idea of Mr. Walsh, who first discussed the plans in August. He said he had prior knowledge of the plan and that he was at the Hunters Brooke development the morning of the fires, but he claimed to have left before any of the fires were set.

Federal affidavits filed in support of the arrests refer to the car club as a “gang,” but local police said they never had heard of the group.

If convicted of arson, each of the men faces a minimum prison sentence of five years. The maximum penalty is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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