One Fayette firefighter cleared of arson; another set for trial
A former Fayette County firefighter who was accused of setting two houses ablaze because he and another firefighter were bored has been exonerated of all charges, but he said the allegations nearly destroyed his family's construction business.
“My dad had a business, and we haven't worked ever since this happened,” said Justin Jordan, 21, after a preliminary hearing before Redstone District Judge Mike Defino Jr. “I want to have my name cleared.”
Jordan was one of two Allison firefighters who police said set fire to two vacant houses so the suspects could respond to the calls.
Defino dismissed all charges against Jordan, but he held the other former firefighter, Ryan Michael Miciotto, 21, for trial on charges of arson, criminal conspiracy, criminal mischief, disorderly conduct and possessing instruments of crime and incendiary devices.
Jordan's father, Emmanuel Jordan, said the allegations affected the entire family because of the drop-off in business.
“Work has slowed down, big time,” Emmanuel Jordan said. “His name cleared in the news would be great.”
In criminal complaints, Redstone police said the two suspects used a Molotov cocktail and a road flare to set fire to vacant houses at 56 Broadway St. and 233 Second St. in Allison on June 14, 2011. At the time, the men were volunteer firefighters with Allison No. 1 Fire Department, according to the complaint. The department has since folded, according to the Fayette County Emergency Management Agency.
During the two men's preliminary hearings on Monday, a state police fire marshal testified he determined the two fires were intentionally set, but he could not say how they were started.
Cpl. Thomas Maher testified he found no accelerants inside either house, or evidence of a road flare or Molotov cocktail.
“I could not say if it was a match or a lighter or a road flare,” Maher testified, when Jordan's attorney, Herbert G. Mitchell Jr. of Hiller, asked whether he knew how the fires were started.
Under questioning by Assistant District Attorney Anthony Iannamorelli, Maher said the fires could have destroyed all evidence of a road flare or Molotov cocktail.
Richard Christopher Jr., a captain with the former fire department, testified that when he arrived at the station the night of the two blazes, he found Jordan and Miciotto already there.
“They had the truck running (and were) suited and ready to go,” Christopher testified.
Christopher said he did not find it unusual because both men lived within two minutes of the fire station and it takes only three minutes for a firefighter to get dressed for a call.
He estimated it took him 11 minutes to get from his house to the fire station.
Charla Hiles, address unavailable, testified Jordan and Miciotto spent part of the evening at her house. They left, but when Miciotto returned, Hiles testified, she overheard him talking to another man in her house.
“He (Miciotto) said he threw a glass cocktail with gas in it and a road flare through a window of another house,” Hiles testified.
Hiles testified the other man was moving a washing machine off her front porch the next morning to take it to a scrap yard when the man found a road flare and sooty glove inside it. Hiles said Miciotto would have passed by the washing machine upon entering her house the previous evening.
Hiles acknowledged she did not tell police about the road flare and glove for a year.
Hiles, who Iannamorelli said will be given unspecified “consideration” in an unrelated case in exchange for her testimony, said she did not save the road flare or glove.
Miciotto's attorney, Jack Connor of Uniontown, pointed out Hiles' testimony is “not consistent with the physical evidence,” including investigators' failure to find remnants of a road flare or Molotov cocktail at either fire.
Mitchell said Jordan has been vindicated, with Defino dismissing all charges against him.
“I think it's clear the commonwealth had no evidence implicating him in these charges,” Mitchell said.
Miciotto posted a percentage of a $25,000 bond and is free.
Liz Zemba is a reporter with Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or firstname.lastname@example.org.