May 30, 2020

Four-time arsonist faces sentencing

ROCKLAND – A former Rockland man convicted in late October of his fourth arson will be sentenced Jan. 28 in Knox County Superior Court.

After a three-day trial, Malcolm H. Emery, 30, of Westport was found guilty on Oct. 31 of arson and aggravated criminal mischief by a Superior Court jury after two hours of deliberations. He since has been held at Knox County Jail without bail.

Assistant District Attorney Eric Walker on Friday called the case unusual, because he had never heard of any other arson cases involving three prior convictions for setting fires.

Another peculiarity in Emery’s case is that the most recent offense required three separate trials for legal reasons.

When he first went to trial in February, jurors witnessed Emery in a hallway during lunch wearing handcuffs, so Justice Francis Marsano declared a mistrial.

In May, another mistrial was called by Justice John Atwood when Walker, during his opening remarks, inadvertently made a reference to a suppressed written statement by the defendant.

Finally in October, a jury found Emery guilty on both counts.

The latest conviction was for a Sept. 24, 1999, fire at the unoccupied home of Betty Gifford at 14 Spruce St. in Rockland.

The “fast, hot-burning fire,” as described in court by Walker, caused extensive damage to the home. Gifford recently had purchased the house, and it was in the process of being renovated. Emery lived in the same neighborhood.

Emery’s three previous convictions involved a March 1989 fire that destroyed the Seapro plant on the Rockland waterfront. The day before that blaze, he set fire to a Rockland building owned by Beaver Enterprises. Ten months later, he was responsible for a warehouse fire in the city.

When asked about the length of sentence Walker would recommend, the prosecutor said that he still was undecided. He was awaiting the presentence report and the results of a forensic evaluation before sitting down with District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau to formulate a recommended sentence.

Defense attorney William Maddox of Rockland also had not come to a decision Friday on a sentence recommendation. He said he thought the state would look at an “upper-tier sentence” of more than 20 years.

According to Maddox, a sentence greater than 20 years is reserved for only the most heinous or violent offenses. He noted that his client was found guilty of setting fire to an “unoccupied” house, which he did not believe rose to that level.

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

comments for this post are closed

You may also like