- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2006

A federal judge yesterday sentenced a Waldorf, Md., man to more than three years in prison for his role in the burning of a Charles County subdivision — Maryland’s largest residential arson.

U.S. District Judge Roger Titus gave Michael Everhart, 21, a 44-month term for the 2004 fires at the Hunters Brooke development in Indian Head.

He also ordered Everhart to repay the more than $3.27 million in damage caused by the arsons.

“There is no excuse for what happened,” Everhart said in a brief and tearful statement in which he apologized to Hunters Brooke residents. “I should have known better.”

Everhart is the fourth of five men to be sentenced for the fires and attempted fires at 35 houses under construction.

No one was injured in the Dec. 6, 2004, fires, but the damage forced many residents to delay moving into their new homes.

The arsons revealed racial tensions in the Southern Maryland county. Prosecutors say that some of the men were angry that most of Hunters Brooke’s new residents are black.

All five men convicted in the case are white.

Thirty-two Hunters Brooke residents later filed a discrimination lawsuit against the men. Everhart is named in the suit, but his attorney, William Brennan, yesterday said that Everhart was not motivated to take part because of race.

Everhart and Roy McCann were tried earlier this year on arson charges, but a jury could not reach a verdict.

Both men later pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit arson. McCann will be sentenced in November.

Mr. Brennan said that Everhart was not privy to the planning of the arsons and went along without knowing the scope of what was to happen that night. Mr. Brennan described him as “more of a hanger on, more of a follower, a wannabe.”

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Donna Sanger said that while Everhart did not plot the arsons, he did know that he would take part in a potentially dangerous crime when he went to Hunters Brooke with the other men.

“He knew it was a fire, and he knew it was a residential fire,” she said.

The group’s ringleader, Patrick Walsh, received nearly 20 years in prison after being convicted last year of arson.

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

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

While announcing his sentence, Judge Titus noted that Everhart did not have a criminal record and had behaved well while out on bail before his trial.

The judge urged the impressionable Everhart not to attach himself to “bad people” while in federal prison.

“You have been a follower, and you followed some bad people doing some very bad things,” Judge Titus said.

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