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Man gets probation in one case involving assault with fire

July 23, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

A Hagerstown man accused of setting two men on fire in separate incidents last fall received probation after he entered an Alford plea in one of the cases Tuesday, but he remains in jail awaiting trial in the second case.

Wesley Morgan Armstrong, 47, of no fixed address, entered the plea in Washington County Circuit Court to one count of second-degree assault against Brian Thrift on Sept. 3, 2002.

Under an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but agrees the state has enough evidence to gain a conviction.

In exchange for the plea, the State's Attorney's Office dropped the remaining charges related to Thrift: Second-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault and reckless endangerment.

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Washington County Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley suspended a seven-year prison term but imposed a three-year probation period that would be added to any sentence Armstrong might receive in the second case.

Armstrong remained at the Washington County Detention Center, where he has been held since November.

Armstrong also is charged with assaulting and burning another man in Hagerstown on Nov. 3, and is scheduled to stand trial on those charges in September.

In the Nov. 3 incident, James Lee Betts, 33, of no fixed address, and David James Kirkpatrick, of Hagerstown, each were charged with a single count of second-degree assault.

Betts was sentenced in January to one year at the Washington County Detention center after he pleaded guilty to the charge.

The single charge against Kirkpatrick was dropped.

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