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Jury convicts 21-year-old of $10 million arson
BALTIMORE -- A man was found guilty Friday of masterminding Maryland's largest residential arson -- a cluster of fires last December that caused $10 million in damage at a subdivision under construction.
Patrick Walsh, 21, was found guilty in federal court of conspiracy and all 34 arson counts for planning and helping set fires at the Hunters Brooke development in Indian Head. No one was hurt, but a family of five had to flee the flames, which destroyed 10 homes and severely damaged 16.
Each count carries a possible prison term of up to 20 years and a $250,000 fine. Judge Roger Titus set a Dec. 5 sentencing date.
The trial was the first prosecution of a member of a group accused of causing the blaze in suburban Washington. Two other men pleaded guilty and face sentencing Oct. 18, and another two are scheduled to go on trial next year.
The jury began deliberations Thursday after a three-week trial. They declined to comment afterward.
Walsh's family members, who sobbed as the verdict was read, also declined to comment. Walsh was led away in handcuffs.
"Although the harm suffered by the victims cannot be erased, it is important that the perpetrators be held accountable," federal prosecutor Rod Rosenstein said in a statement.
Derrick Potts, whose family was the only one living in the development at the time of the fires, said he was "ecstatic" about the verdict.
Potts recalled the night his family fled their new home through a "rain of ashes" as houses burned around them. His home suffered minor damage.
William Purpura, Walsh's lawyer, declined to comment about the possibility of appeal.
Prosecutors painted Walsh as a man fascinated with fire and explosives who plotted and carried out the arson to gain attention for the gang he had formed.
One of those who pleaded guilty, Jeremy Parady, testified that Walsh was at Hunters Brooke early Dec. 6 and helped light the fires. Purpura argued that Walsh was at home playing computer games at the time.