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Man found not guilty of two felony arson counts

February 11, 2006|By DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. -

A Quincy Township man charged with setting his mobile home on fire to escape police was found not guilty on the most serious charges at the end of a two-day trial in Franklin County Court.

A jury deliberated two hours on Friday before finding Norman G. Patterson Jr. not guilty of two felony counts of arson and misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest and criminal mischief. He was found guilty of second-degree misdemeanor counts of fleeing and eluding police and recklessly endangering another person.

The trial involved two separate cases against Patterson, 35, of 9120 Tomstown Road. The first involved a vehicle chase with a Waynesboro, Pa., police officer on the night of March 25, 2004, and the second was the fire allegedly set later that night when police tried to take him into custody at his home.

Pennsylvania State Police alleged Patterson ran out while the officer guarding the back door was distracted by the fire. While the jury acquitted him of setting the fire, it convicted him of endangering the police and firefighters who were at the scene.

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Patterson, who has been in the county jail for 13 months, faces up to four years in prison when he is sentenced on April 5.

"We're happy without being delighted," defense attorney Steve Rice said of the verdict.

Rice presented several alibi witnesses, including Patterson's mother, Martha Burgenstock, who testified her son was at her Washington Township home setting up a computer during the time he supposedly was being chased by police and setting his home on fire. Burgenstock testified her son remained there overnight and she did not hear police knocking on the door or calling her house during the night.

Patterson testified he had not driven his silver Saturn that day except a short distance to his sister's home, where he put it in the garage. A cousin later drove him to his mother's home, he testified.

Patterson testified he learned of the fire in an e-mail his sister sent to his mother's house about 11:30 p.m. He did not go there fearing he would be jailed because he was on parole for burglary and theft convictions, Patterson testified.

Under cross-examination by Assistant District Attorney Angela Krom, however, Patterson denied knowing he already was wanted on a parole violation before the car chase or fire. He said he fled Pennsylvania and worked in several states until he was captured on Jan. 7, 2005, in Greenvillage, Pa., where police had lured him under the pretense of meeting a woman he was corresponding with over the Internet.

Patterson denied having any contact with his family during the nine months he was on the run, although he admitted he was driving his mother's car when he was arrested.

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