DA To Re-Launch Arson-Murder Probe of Anthony Baye; Bail Set At $150K; New Grand Jury Investigation On Tap
Sullivan has dropped pending arson and murder charges against Baye and will reconstruct the Commonwealth’s case in both the 2007 and 2009 Northampton fires. The announcement comes on the heels of a high court ruling that tosses the Commonwealth’s prime piece of evidence: a videotaped confession to state cops.
NORTHAMPTON – Alleged arsonist and murderer Anthony Baye got some good news today, but in the end it could turn around to be the worst news of his life.
Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan – who inherited the case from his predecessor, Elizabeth Scheibel – has decided to drop the pending murder and arson charges against Baye, the 20-something line cook who admitted setting a series of December 2009 fires that scorched homes and cars and took the life of two Fair Street men.
Sullivan’s problem was that, although Baye later confessed on videotape to two State Police detectives that he lit several of the 15 fires (including the one that elderly Paul Yeskie Sr. and his mentally disabled son, Paul Yeskie Jr.), the confession was tainted because the cops overstepped their guidelines and violated Mr. Baye’s rights.
So said the state’s highest court in a groundbreaking, unanimous decision in May. (To see our story on the state Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling, click here.)
Rather than appeal the SJC’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, DA Sullivan has taken a bold step to throw out most of the old charges and start the investigation all over again.
“While we believed that Judge Constance Sweeney’s finding was correct in her determination that Baye’s videotaped confession was admissible, we accept and will follow the ruling of the Supreme Judicial Court,” Sulilvan said in a lengthy press release issued today.
According to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, the DA revealed his new tack in Hampden Superior Court, where the scheduled trial judge, Constance Sweeney, is sitting.
Sullivan is keeping in place other charges that Baye lied to police and tried to subvert the investigation, for which Sweeney set bail at $150,000. While he was facing murder and arson charges, Baye had been held without bail at the Hampshire County Jail here.
In written statement, the DA said he will launch a new investigation into the 15 fires set in the early morning hours of Dec. 27, blazes that sent shock waves and terror through several downtown neighborhoods here.
Sullivan also urged anyone with information to contact investigators at:
* Massachusetts State Arson Hotline (800) 682-9229
* Northampton Police Detectives Unit (413) 587-1100
* NWDA’s anonymous Text-a-Tip – Text PROTECT and message to 274637
Baye was never charged with a series of other fires in the neighborhood around where he lived in his parents’ home on Hawley Street. Sullivan’s statement suggests his office will also take a new look at a set of unexplained blazes set as far back as 2007. Similar in ways to the fires set in 2009, those blazes were set alongside houses, in cars, and trash barrels, causing serious damage in some cases.
The Gazette reports today that a condition of bail for Baye includes that he be confined to his home and wear an electronic tracking device. The paper also quotes a defense attorney as saying they will seek to throw out the six remaining charges – each of which carries a maximum 10 years in state prison – because the original indictment was a flawed confession.
Sweeney’s decision to allow the audio- and video-taped confession at trial came last August, five months after she held an evidentiary hearing in which the entire tape was played before a small throng of reporters, family members and court personnel. (See our story on what that tape showed by clicking here.)
Police and prosecutors are not without other evidence, lots of it, including two earlier taped interviews with police, computer and cell phone records, and testimony of several of Baye’s friends. And for those of us who watched the tape, there is little doubt that the former line cook lit many if not all of the fires that terrorized the city more than 30 months ago.
© 2012 Northampton Media
David Reid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org