- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 23, 2006

Federal prosecutors will begin presenting evidence today against the last two members of a gang charged with setting fire to two dozen homes in a new upscale development in Charles County, Md., in December 2004.

In opening statements yesterday, attorneys for Roy T. “Brian” McCann, 23, and Michael McIntosh Everhart, 21, acknowledged that their clients were close friends with gang leader Patrick S. Walsh, 21.

But they said their clients were not part of a conspiracy to torch the houses in the Hunters Brooke development in Indian Head.

Both men are charged with arson and conspiracy.

In opening statements, prosecutors called the arsons “a horrific crime.”

“Children woke up. There were houses aflame all about them,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Donna C. Sanger argued in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.

The fires began about 3:30 a.m. Dec. 6, 2004.

“Within 15 minutes, there were 24 houses in flames,” Mrs. Sanger said. “Then, they ran out of time,” but investigators found chemicals and blow torches in 11 more houses.

“That terrorized an entire community,” Mrs. Sanger said.

The fires caused millions of dollars in damage and forced many families to delay their plans to move into their new homes by months. No one was injured.

William C. Brennan Jr., who is representing Mr. Everhart, argued that no physical evidence shows his client was involved in the crime. Walsh “was out there and had a motive,” Mr. Brennan said.

Mrs. Sanger had said earlier, “Patrick Walsh had a fascination with fires, chemicals and explosives. … He had been talking for months about blowing things up.”

But, she added, “Each brought their own motives to the crime.”

Nothing was said in court yesterday about racial hatred as a motive. The investigation suggested it as a motive when it was shown that mostly black families were moving into the development.

“This case is not about race,” said Joshua Treem, Mr. McCann’s attorney. He emphasized that his client was the last to be arrested and was questioned repeatedly by federal authorities.

“The agents weren’t interested in the truth,” Mr. Treem said. “Investigators wanted him to incriminate himself.”

Mr. Treem pinned most of the blame on Jeremy Parady for saying that Mr. McCann had conspired and was involved in setting the fires. Mr. Treem said Parady could never tell the truth.

“A pathological liar,” the attorney said of Parady, adding that he told the story “at least a half-a-dozen times — sometimes under oath. He never said it the same way twice.”

Walsh, of Fort Washington, was sentenced to 19 years in prison in December in the arson case.

Aaron Speed, 22, of Waldorf, Md., and Parady, 21, of Accokeek, both pleaded guilty in the case, and Parady testified against Walsh. Speed, a former security guard at Hunters Brooke, was sentenced to more than eight years in prison, while Parady received a seven-year term.

Judge Roger W. Titus ordered each of them to pay an estimated $3.3 million in restitution.

Authorities ascribed a variety of motives to the group, including a desire to gain fame for their street racing club and anger that many of the residents moving into Hunters Brooke were black.

In November, 32 Hunters Brooke residents filed a discrimination lawsuit against the five men, all of whom are white.

The trial is expected to last two weeks.

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

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