Defense attacks evidence in Anthony Baye arson case
GAZETTE FILE PHOTO
Defense lawyers for accused arsonist Anthony Baye, seen here in 2010, have filed a 17-page motion to dismiss the 42-count indictment against him. He is accused of setting arson fires in Niorthampton beginning in 2007, including one that killed a father and son on Dec. 27, 2009. Purchase photo reprints »
GAZETTE FILE PHOTOD
Anthony Baye consults with attorneys David Hoose and Thomas Lesser in a pretrial hearing. Opening arguments in Baye's arson and murder trial are tentatively scheduled for Wednesday. Purchase photo reprints »
NORTHAMPTON — Defense attorneys for accused arsonist Anthony Baye are seeking to have his case dismissed, claiming the grand jury that indicted him was given “shoddy merchandise” by the state.
“Improper evidence was knowingly given to the grand jury in order to obtain the indictment,” according to the 17-page motion, filed Tuesday by defense lawyers David Hoose and Thomas Lesser, both of Northampton.
Baye, 28, is accused of setting a string of fires in Northampton, including one that killed Paul Yeskie Sr., 81, and his son Paul Yeskie Jr., 39, in their Fair Street home Dec. 27, 2009.
After the state’s Supreme Judicial Court in July ruled that portions of Baye’s recorded police interrogation were inadmissible as evidence, prosecutors dropped most of the original charges against him.
But eight days later, a grand jury re-indicted Baye on charges related to the Dec. 27, 2009, fires and eleven others dating back to 2007, most of them in Northampton’s Ward 3 neighborhood.
The indictment contains two charges of murder in connection with the Yeskies’ deaths as well as 40 other counts including arson, attempted arson and armed burglary. Six of the charges carry potential life sentences if Baye is convicted.
In the motion to dismiss, Baye’s lawyers claim the new evidence submitted to the grand jury was based on a “bogus” expert opinion and unrelated anecdotes from some of Baye’s friends about alleged acts of vandalism.
The motion contends there is no probable cause to link Baye to any of the fires.
Special prosecutor Brett Vottero said there is a deadline of March 13 to respond to the motion to dismiss, and a hearing on evidentiary motions in the case is set for April 1. A trial has been scheduled for the spring, with jury selection to begin May 6.
Vottero said prosecutors had only recently received a copy of the motion and were in the process of reviewing it.
He said the prosecution has submitted “volumes” of grand jury testimony to Judge Constance Sweeney in response to the defense motion.
The motion to dismiss states the earlier fires previously had been characterized as unsolved and some hadn’t been characterized as crimes at all until prosecutors implicated Baye.
According to court files, state police detectives assigned to the state fire marshal’s office told the grand jury that all of the earlier fires were set by the same person and that all of the fires listed in the indictment are connected.
“To reach the conclusion that the defendant was responsible for these past fires, the grand jurors plainly resorted to conjecture and speculation,” the motion states.
The motion cites a portion of the SJC’s decision to suppress portions of Baye’s police interview indicating troopers needed a confession from Baye in order to charge him, because the evidence they had without one was not conclusive.
“The troopers needed a confession or substantive admissions before they could charge the defendant with a crime. A false alibi and mere presence near the immediate aftermaths of the fires were simply not enough to charge the defendant with any of the fires or attempted fires,” according to the high court’s ruling.
According to court files, Baye allegedly claimed he was in the area of one of the Dec. 27 fires to visit a girlfriend. An interview with that woman revealed she did not live at the address Baye provided.
The lawyers’ motion maintains that the most solid evidence linking Baye to a fire was a photograph allegedly showing him and his car near the scene of one of the Dec. 27 arsons. But an FBI analysis determined that the car in the photo was not Baye’s, according to the motion.
Some of the evidence the state has to connect Baye to the earlier fires is that he lived near the sites of some of them, his cellphone was active in making or receiving calls or text messages close to the times that some of the fires were reported, and he had been seen in the vicinity of others.
According to the motion, friends of Baye’s testified before the grand jury. Baye’s lawyers contend that testimony was designed to paint their client as a “chronic criminal” who is “at constant war with society.”
According to the motion, the testimony consisted of recollections from some of Baye’s friends about his past behavior.
It included references to alleged acts of vandalism, including breaking a car’s windshield in Boston, urinating on a car door, throwing eggs at houses, spraying ketchup on a wall and other acts, some dating back about 10 years.
In the motion, the defense team contends that the evidence proffered by Baye’s acquaintances was not specific and does not relate to the crimes with which he is charged. The testimony only suggested that Baye may have had a “propensity to commit acts of vandalism,” but did not provide evidence linking him to any of the fires, the motion states.
Bob Dunn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.