- The Washington Times - Friday, June 24, 2005

“A couple of months ago at Denny’s,” Roy McCann wrote in a December statement to federal investigators, “Patrick Walsh stated that he was going to go off and just start blowing stuff up.”

That statement, given by one of five men charged in the largest arson case in Maryland history, was unsealed yesterday by a federal judge, who denied requests by defense attorneys who hoped to avoid more bad publicity for their clients.

Mr. McCann’s statement describes a meeting at a Denny’s restaurant in Southern Maryland in which Mr. Walsh, 20, started talking about his plans. Mr. McCann also describes how others charged with the crimes prepared to set the blazes at the Hunters Brooke development and how Mr. Walsh was a member of a gang called the Unseen Cavaliers.

“They are also fire bugs,” Mr. McCann wrote.

U.S. District Judge Roger Titus, who unsealed the documents on a motion filed by The Washington Post, also agreed yesterday to move Mr. Walsh’s trial from the federal courthouse in Greenbelt to the one in Baltimore. Mr. Walsh’s trial is set for Aug. 16.

William Purpura, Mr. Walsh’s attorney, argued that because of press coverage of the case in the Washington area, his client would have trouble getting an impartial jury in the court system’s southern district. With the change of location, Mr. Walsh’s jury will be selected from Maryland’s northern district.

Two of the five men being prosecuted for the blazes, Aaron Lee Speed and Jeremy D. Parady, reached plea agreements with prosecutors but have not been sentenced. Both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit arson.

The documents unsealed yesterday included statements by Speed and Michael Everhart, who is awaiting trial. The statements had been quoted in charging documents and discussed in hearings, but had not been released in their entirety.

Attorneys representing Mr. McCann, Mr. Walsh and Mr. Everhart wanted the documents suppressed, arguing the additional publicity would make it harder to seat an impartial jury. But Judge Titus said the “spectacular nature” of the crimes naturally drew significant press attention.

“I can’t do anything about that,” he told the men’s lawyers.

Judge Titus described the First Amendment as “pesky” and said he could relate to the defense attorneys’ position, having been in a similar situation as an attorney himself.

However, he ordered the documents unsealed, saying the process used to select a jury is capable of filtering out biased jurors.

The statements were given to federal agents 10 to 14 days after the Dec. 6 blaze in the upscale development. The fires did $10 million damage to houses under construction, many of them being built for black homeowners. The defendants are white, and prosecutors have raised racism one of the motives. Speed also acknowledged in his guilty plea that he was envious of the well-to-do home buyers and angry at his employer, a security company hired to guard the site, for refusing him bereavement leave when his baby son died.

Speed wrote on Dec. 16 in his statement about how he told Parady how to get onto the construction site, where he wanted to “set a fire behind his friend’s house” on Dec. 4. But Parady didn’t complete the prank that night, Speed wrote, and planned to try again the next night. Speed also wrote that he saw Parady “carrying a jug bigger than a milk jug with a clear fluid” that weekend.

Mr. Everhart wrote in his Dec. 18 statement about meeting Mr. Walsh and others at Denny’s, “talking about how they wanted to burn things down and light fires.” He also wrote that he didn’t know about plans to burn the housing development.

He ends the statement by writing: “I did not mean to be there.”

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