- The Washington Times - Friday, March 4, 2005


More charges likely will be filed in the December arsons at a housing development in Charles County, Md., including new counts against the supposed ringleader of the group accused of setting the fires, prosecutors said in a recent filing in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.

Six men face federal arson and conspiracy charges in the Dec. 6 fires that caused $10 million in damage to 26 houses at the Hunters Brooke development in Indian Head. All except one of the men have been indicted by a federal grand jury.

In a letter this week to the judge overseeing the case, prosecutors said a grand jury is reviewing evidence from the case and that a superseding indictment, which would replace the original indictments and include more charges, likely will come when the grand jury is finished.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Donna Sanger did not say what the new charges would be or who could face them. But she did say Patrick Walsh, the Fort Washington man prosecutors think plotted the fires, probably will face new charges.

“While not all of the defendants may be affected by the superseding indictment, it is likely that the superseding indictment will contain additional charges against Mr. Walsh,” Miss Sanger wrote in the March 1 letter to U.S. District Court Judge Roger Titus.

Mr. Walsh’s attorney, William Purpura, did not return a message left at his office yesterday.

Prosecutors say Mr. Walsh was the head of a group called “the family” that planned and set the fires. Its members had a mutual interest in street racing and Chevrolet Cavalier cars, often meeting at the parking lot of a Wendy’s restaurant in Waldorf.

Several potential motives for the fires have been presented by prosecutors and in court filings, including a wish by Mr. Walsh to gain fame for “the family.” One defendant also told investigators that race my have been a motivation.

Many of the residents who planned to move into Hunters Brooke were black, while all the suspects are white.

Mr. Walsh is scheduled to be tried first, on May 31, but Mr. Purpura has filed a motion to have that trial date pushed back. In her letter to Judge Titus, Miss Sanger did not object to the proposal.

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