MAN SAYS HE LIT PAPER, DIDN’T THINK IT SET APARTMENT BLAZE — (Watertown Daily Times)

To view original article click here

Watertown Daily Times (NY)

March 16, 1996

Author: Ed Perkins Times Staff Writer

The Adams Center man accused of starting a December 1994 fire at the Stonewood Apartment building in Watertown testified Friday in Jefferson County Court that he lit a piece of paper and tossed it over his shoulder, but he didn’t think the paper started the blaze. And even if it did start the fire, according to Michael J. Macri’s testimony as recalled by attorneys, he did not intentionally torch the building. Mr. Macri, 32, Adams Center, is on trial, charged with deliberately setting the Dec. 22, 1994, fire at the Mohawk Street apartment building. He conceded he was angry at a resident who conned him out of money by promising marijuana. Mr. Macri is charged with second-degree arson and criminal mischief, and first-degree reckless endangerment.

Testimony at his trial ended Friday. The case is expected to go to a jury on Monday after closing statements by Assistant District Attorney Dennis A. Germain and defense attorney William J. McClusky and instructions by Judge Lee Clary. Mr. Macri took the witness stand on his own behalf for about half an hour Friday. Much of his testimony mirrored a statement he gave police, attorneys in the case said. He testified he lit a piece of paper in the Uyles K. “Casey” Monahan residence, Apartment 103. He said he took the paper, which he thought was important, off the kitchen table, attorneys said. Mr. Macri told jurors he let the paper burn down to his fingers, and he threw it over his shoulder, attorneys said. Mr. Macri denied he poured a flammable liquid on the floor, although investigators testified they found evidence of it. Mr. Macri testified he was “ripped off” of $500 in a marijuana deal, and he was angry at Mr. Monahan, attorneys said. Nevertheless, the day of the fire, Mr. Macri gave Mr. Monahan $60 to buy marijuana for him, but Mr. Monahan never returned with it, according to earlier testimony by Mr. Monahan. Instead, Mr. Monahan used the money to drive to Virginia. Although Mr. Macri said he was angry, he told jurors he did not think the paper he tossed started the fire that gutted the apartment building, attorneys said. Mr. McClusky has suggested someone else may have gone into Apartment 103, where the fire started, after his client left.

In fact, Mr. Macri testified, he was at the Monahan apartment at about 10 p.m. the day of the fire and on Factory Street by 10:30 p.m., according to attorneys. The alarm for the fire went out at 10:33 p.m. According to the defense theory, even if the paper did start the fire that raged through the apartment building, Mr. Macri had not meant it. Lack of intent could reduce the second-degree arson count against Mr. Macri to a lesser charge of fourth-degree arson. Mr. Macri also testified that before the fire he had had bouts of depression, had taken the anti-depressant Prozac for it for 1 1/2 months and had tried to kill himself three times, Mr. Germain said. Mr. Macri apparently tried to commit suicide again after his Jan. 20, 1995, arrest and while in jail. He was taken to Samaritan Medical Center on May 3 last year for a drug overdose while in jail at the Metro-Jefferson Public Safety Building. It was believed he had taken too much of a prescription medicine. He was subsequently sent to Central New York Psychiatric Center at Marcy for a time. After Mr. Macri’s testimony Friday, Mr. Germain recalled city police Investigator Stephen J. Eisenhauer to the witness stand in an apparent bid to defuse the defendant’s testimony through inconsistencies. For example, according to Mr. Germain, Mr. Eisenhauer testified Mr. Macri had never told him the piece of paper had come from the kitchen table. The officer said Mr. Macri had told him he lit papers on the couch. 

Copyright (c) 1996 Watertown Daily Times

Record Number:  9603160058