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Judge rules on homeless man's statements

March 11, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

A Washington County judge ruled Monday that only portions of statements made to police by a man accused of setting two men on fire can be used against him.

Wesley Morgan Armstrong, 47, is a homeless man who is accused of setting two other homeless men on fire on two days last September and November, according to his attorney. He was charged Nov. 14 with two counts each of attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault, second-degree assault and reckless endangerment.

Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III heard arguments Monday from Armstrong's attorneys and Washington County State's Attorney Kenneth Long.

Hagerstown City Police said Charles Rappe was found beaten and burned by the railroad tracks near Antietam Street and Burhans Boulevard on Nov. 3.

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Police took Armstrong to headquarters for questioning and advised him of his Miranda rights shortly after 9 p.m., but had questioned Armstrong for less than 30 minutes when he told investigators he wanted to go home, Assistant Public Defender Mary Riley said.

At that point, Wright III said, police should have read Armstrong his rights again, Long and Riley said. Wright ruled the State's Attorney's Office cannot use any statements made to police after he said he wanted to go home, Long and Riley said.

Police kept Armstrong at headquarters until they obtained a search warrant. He was released shortly after 2 a.m. the next day, Riley said.

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