- The Washington Times - Monday, June 5, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

One of the men accused of setting a series of fires at an upscale housing development under construction in Charles County, Md., in 2004 pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiracy to commit arson.

Michael M. Everhart, 21, of Waldorf, Md., will be sentenced Sept. 8, federal prosecutors said yesterday.

He faces at least five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

The trial of Everhart and Roy T. McCann Jr., 23, ended in a hung jury in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt in March.

Attorneys for the two men acknowledged that their clients were close friends with gang leader Patrick S. Walsh, but they said their clients were not part of a conspiracy to torch the houses.

William C. Brennan Jr., who represented Everhart, argued at trial that no physical evidence shows his client was involved in the crime.

The two were the last of five men to face court action for the Dec. 6, 2004, fires at Hunters Brooke in Indian Head. They were accused of setting fire to 26 houses at various stages of completion and tried to torch 11 others in what was Maryland’s worst case of residential arson.

Walsh, 21, was convicted last year and sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison.

Aaron Lee Speed, 22, a security guard at Hunters Brooke, pleaded guilty and was given a prison term of more than eight years.

Jeremy Daniel Parady, 21, received seven years in prison for his guilty plea.

Mr. McCann goes on trial next June.

Authorities said a variety of motives were behind the blazes, including Walsh’s desire to gain fame for his street-racing gang and anger by some defendants that most of the Hunters Brooke residents were black.

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

The fires, set early in the morning, caused more than $3.2 million in damage and delayed by months the plans of families to move into their new homes.

No one was injured, but a family living nearby was forced to drive through flames to escape.

Everhart had said that he went to the site with the group but left before any fires were set.

His attorney, William Brennan, did not respond to a call for comment.


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