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Frederick woman found not guilty of attempted arson

August 30, 2010|By DON AINES

HAGERSTOWN --The upper floor of the Washington County Courthouse reeked of gasoline Monday during the trial of a Frederick, Md., woman who was found not guilty of attempting to set fire to her ex-boyfriend's car.

A Circuit Court jury found Riyan Faith Williams, 22, not guilty of second-degree attempted arson in the Jan. 15 incident on South Prospect Street in Hagerstown.

"This is definitely a jury nullification case. ... The people decided they didn't want to hold her criminally responsible," Assistant State's Attorney Brett Wilson said.

"We're very glad the case is resolved. We're especially glad it was resolved in this manner," said Bryon C. Black, Williams' attorney.

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The smell in the courthouse was from a dishpan Williams allegedly filled with gasoline with the intent of setting fire to the automobile of Carlos Watts Jr., Wilson said after the trial. The dishpan, which was not introduced as evidence, was permeated by gasoline and was still giving off fumes, Wilson said.

The Washington County Emergency Communications Center received a call on the night of Jan. 15 that someone was trying to set fire to a car to the rear of a South Prospect Street house, according to the statement of probable cause filed by Hagerstown Fire Marshal Douglas P. DeHaven. When authorities arrived, Watts' vehicle was in the driveway, along with a car driven by Williams, the statement said.

A gas can was found next to Williams' car and a grocery bag containing matches was in the back seat, the statement of probable cause said. She gave DeHaven a receipt for the matches, the statement said.

Williams told DeHaven she traveled from Frederick to burn Watts' vehicle, pumping gas from a Burhans Boulevard gas station into the dishpan, which she set on the front passenger's seat, the statement of probable cause said. Wilson said Williams had her infant child in the back seat of the car.

Watts' vehicle was not there when she arrived, so she placed the dishpan in the snow, went back to the gas station and bought a gas can, the statement of probable cause said. When Watts arrived, she was pouring the gas from the dishpan into the gas can, the statement said.

Watts was not available to testify at the trial, Wilson said.

A warrant was issued for Watts' arrest for failing to appear in District Court in April on a charge of making false statements to an officer, court records show.

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