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Restaurant arson suspect charged in dumpster fires

March 24, 1997

By MARLO BARNHART

Staff Writer

A man accused of arson in the Jan. 25 House of Kobe restaurant fire has been charged with setting nine trash bin fires that kept Hagerstown firefighters busy on Dec. 30, authorities said.

Washington County District Court Judge Ralph France on Monday raised the bond on Kevin Augustus Cotton, 30, of 37 N. Mulberry St., from $75,000 to $125,000.

Cotton objected vehemently in court on Monday to the second-degree arson charge in the House of Kobe fire. Conviction could carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

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"It's all hearsay," Cotton said, claiming the police charged him based on something an unidentified man told Hagerstown City Police. "I don't have time for this."

The Jan. 25 fire gutted the popular Japanese restaurant on Dual Highway, temporarily putting it out of business and its six employees out of work. Owners Massy and Joon Hirai have reopened the restaurant in the Dagmar Hotel on Summit Avenue until they can return to the Dual Highway location.

A preliminary hearing on the restaurant arson charge has been set for April 16 in Washington County District Court, court records said.

The new misdemeanor arson charges involve fires in nine trash bins at three locations in Hagerstown. Firefighters extinguished the blazes over a three-hour period on Dec. 30.

Hagerstown Fire Marshal Tom Brown said Cotton has been charged with setting fires in seven trash bins at Townhouse Manor Apartments, as well as a fire in a trash bin at McDonald's Restaurant on Dual Highway and one at the Baltimore Street Car Wash, Brown said.

Brown said the penalty for conviction on a misdemeanor arson charge of the kind involving trash bins is a $500 fine and/or 30 days in jail on each count.

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