- The Washington Times - Friday, August 26, 2005

BALTIMORE — Prosecutors have presented two weeks of testimony in their arson case against Patrick S. Walsh, but waited until yesterday to call the first witness from the crime scene, a man who said the defendant participated in the fires.

The witness, Jeremy Daniel Parady, 21, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy earlier this year, said he was the driver in a “kick-and-go” operation, in which Mr. Walsh and others ran to houses under construction in the Hunters Brooke development in Charles County, kicked in the front doors and ignited fires.

Parady said he stayed in the car to listen to a police scanner.

“I did not light any houses on fire,” he said. “I just sat in the car and moved it around.”

However, Parady admitted yesterday that he lied numerous times to investigators in an earlier court hearing. Some of the lies implicating several people who didn’t take part in the massive Dec. 6 arson.

Parady’s testimony is key because he is the first member of the reputed gang led by Mr. Walsh accused of torching the subdivision to take the stand. Other witnesses have said Mr. Walsh had a fascination with explosives and fire but were not able to place him at the scene. Another recanted earlier statements that implicated Mr. Walsh.

Mr. Walsh is charged with arson and conspiracy in the Indian Head fires, which destroyed 10 houses and severely damaged many more. Damage was estimated at $10 million, but there were no injuries because most of the houses were unoccupied.

Prosecutors have said Mr. Walsh hatched the plot to gain notoriety for his gang, which included several of the five other men charged with arson. His attorney, William Purpura, argues there is little forensic evidence linking him to the crime.

Mr. Purpura hammered at Parady’s credibility yesterday, detailing the long list of lies he told investigators after his arrest and under oath during an April pretrial hearing.

Parady admitted he initially denied involvement in the fires and lied about details of the arson’s execution and planning. He also said he told investigators that seven other innocent people took part. One, Michael Gilbert, initially was charged with arson but was later cleared of wrongdoing.

“I was running scared,” Parady told Mr. Purpura. “I just kept naming names.”

As part of Parady’s plea agreement, he agreed to testify in return for leniency at sentencing. Despite being previously untruthful, he insisted yesterday that he was telling the truth on the stand.

Parady also admitted he lied about the motivation of a fellow suspect, Aaron Lee Speed, who pleaded guilty earlier this year. Parady initially said Speed, who is white, was angry that many of the people moving into Hunters Brook were black.

He said the anger stemmed from the death of Speed’s child, saying Speed blamed a black ambulance technician for the baby’s death. Parady admitted yesterday the story was false.

Parady said Speed and Mr. Walsh recruited him as the driver because of his reputed driving skills. He said he initially resisted, but later agreed to help resolve a dispute he had with Mr. Walsh.

The night of the fires, Parady said, he drank two six-packs of beer and had six shots of rum before Mr. Walsh picked him up. Once at Hunters Brooke, Parady said, the group retrieved some containers of fluid that had been stashed at the site. Then the men fanned out, going from house to house, he said. After the fires were set, they regrouped at a Wendy’s restaurant parking lot in Waldorf.

In his own plea agreement, Parady, who is also white, said he targeted Hunters Brooke because of its racial makeup. However, he denied repeatedly on the stand that he was driven by racism.

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