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Man accepts plea deal in Inwood arson case

December 01, 2009

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A 30-year-old man accused in July of attempting to burn a mobile home where his children live with their mother accepted a plea offer Monday from the Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney's office.

Eric Scott Hardy, who is being held at Eastern Regional Jail, would receive a five-year prison sentence after entering an Alford plea to one count of first-degree arson as part of a plea offer that Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Jean Games-Neely's office tendered in letter form. Hardy signed the letter, according to court records.

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

As part of the plea deal, one felony count of fleeing while driving under the influence would be dismissed, 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes was told on Monday.

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Hardy might enter the plea on Feb. 22 after Wilkes reviews the results of a preplea/sentencing investigation to be completed by the probation office.

Hardy told police he used heroin prior to starting the fire on July 7 at 185 Harranda Court in Inwood, W.Va., according to court records. No one, including homeowner Tabatha Smoot and Hardy's children, was home when the fire started, police have said.

-- Matthew Umstead

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