|Felony Charges Dropped for Four University
of Md. Student Athletes Arrested in Final Four Fires |
By Amy Silva, Kate Springle and Tynisa Trapps
Thursday, May 17, 2001
In the earliest Web-published version of this story, Maryland Newsline gave the wrong age for Mark Mansueto. He is 22. His age
was corrected below.
PARK, Md. - Felony charges have been dropped for all four University of
Maryland student athletes arrested in connection with the fires set in College
Park following the Terps' Final Four basketball loss.
determined that none of the cases merited felony prosecution," said Mark
Spencer, Prince George's County deputy state's attorney.
Burr, a spokeswoman for the Prince George's County State's Attorney's Office,
added that neither felony nor misdemeanor malicious burning charges could be substantiated by
the evidence collected from the March 31 rampage, in which several thousand people set about 60
fires in College Park neighborhoods.
don't believe that there was any malicious intent towards anything or
anybody," concurred Richard Finci, an attorney for 20-year-old Jeremy
Duncan, one of the four students charged.
dismissal of the felony first-degree malicious burning charge means that the university won't take any punitive
action against the students, such as suspension or expulsion, said John
Zacker, university director of student discipline.
each of the students still faces court time this summer for misdemeanor
charges: One count of disorderly conduct, one count of disturbing the peace and
five counts of reckless endangerment, Burr said. If convicted of all those
charges, each could receive up to 25 years and 90 days in prison and/or $26,000
in fines, according to the state's attorney's office.
other three charged along with Duncan were Dawn Christensen, 19, Mark Mansueto,
22, and Joshua Weidman, 22. Weidman was co-captain of the varsity wrestling
team, and Duncan and Mansueto were his teammates. Christensen played field hockey.
A Prince George's County Police Department spokesman, Cpl. Joe Merkel, said
the arrests developed from tips to police. He added the police investigation is
still open, but tips are coming in less frequently now.
to accounts of friends of those arrested and their lawyers, the four are trying to keep their lives
together as they await their court dates.
"He's doing the best he can to keep his grades up and
continue working out like he's supposed to," said Finci, of Duncan.
Weidman at least, it will be a huge relief if he finds out if he'll be able to
wrestle again next year, said a longtime friend. "Josh is a really fierce
competitor, and I know it would really crush him if he wasn't able to wrestle
here next year," said Todd Ainsworth, a 20-year-old University of Maryland
field hockey coach declined to comment, and the wrestling coach didn't return numerous
But Rob Mullens, University of Maryland senior associate athletic director, released the following statement in reference to the status
of the four athletes: "We are in the process of reviewing the situation,
given the latest information. As of right now they remain suspended from their
who grew up with Weidman in Hershey, Pa., said he's not surprised the four
arrested were prominent athletes. "When they [officials] make an example, they
want to make an example of someone well known," he said.
Cathy Atwell, operations bureau commander for the University of Maryland Police Department, said the athletes were not singled out. "When the police
department can identify people involved in a crime, then we will charge those
individuals," Atwell said. "Not every car who speeds gets a ticket.
Life isn't fair."
Finci said the fact that the students weren't arrested on the spot may become a
consideration at trial. "I
think from a legal perspective, it's more a question of whether a crime was
actually committed," Finci said. "If the officers witnessed a crime
in their presence, they're supposed to do something about it."
officers who witnessed the event have fallen under attack from College
Park Mayor Michael Jacobs. "The
reality is, no one anticipated the degree to which these incidents
evolved," Jacobs said. "However, the police response was
unnecessarily slow, and in part contributed to the extent of the damage that was
fires set by several thousand people caused about $300,000 in
damage to Comcast cable lines, said Doug McKenzie, Comcast Prince George's
County vice president and general manager.
has not made a final determination as to whether to take legal action. The
damaged fiber trunk cable line took more than 18 hours to repair, but service was
back up the same day, McKenzie said.
Peter White, Prince George's County Police Department citizens services
manager, said the situation was handled as well as possible under the
matter how much planning you do, you have to expect the unexpected, and we did
the best we could under the circumstances with the knowledge we had at the
time," White said. "We never expected there to be 60 fires. You can
only expand your manpower so thin."
Mark Brady, Prince George's County Fire Department spokesman, said police and fire officials were in the immediate area
when the televised game let out, and about 45 fire fighters and rescue personnel
responded to the fires.
Copyright © 2001 University of Maryland College of
available, with permission and credit, for use by Capital News Service
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