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Granby man admits to arson, gets four years in jail

Scott Szaban<br/><br/>GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Scott Szaban

GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Szaban, 47, of 299 East State St., pleaded guilty Tuesday afternoon to a single count of arson, two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and one count of felony nighttime breaking and entering.

Szaban was sentenced Wednesday to four years in state prison by Hampshire Superior Court Judge Bertha Josephson.

Szaban’s attorney, David Mintz of Northampton, said the decision to change plea was made following a ruling by Josephson Tuesday on witness testimony that favored the prosecution and “diminished” the strength of the defense.

Mintz said the purpose of the hearing, held without the jury present, was to interview a witness the defense had anticipated would be helpful to its case to determine how much testimony would be admissible.

Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Matthew Thomas, who prosecuted the case, said the witness’ testimony identified Szaban in the vicinity of the fire scene.

Thomas said the plea agreement was the same one that Szaban had rejected earlier Tuesday in deciding to go forward with a trial.

Thomas said four prosecution witnesses testified Tuesday before the evidence hearing was held.

Szaban admitted that on Sept. 27, 2011, he broke into a vacant home at 92 Chicopee St. in Granby with a set of bolt cutters and snapped off several pieces of copper pipe, placed them into a duffel bag and carried them out of the house.

The house was being refurbished for sale by Theodore LaBorde of Easthampton, whose deceased parents had previously owned it, according to court papers.

Szaban gathered curtains from inside the house, put them in a pile and set them on fire before leaving through the front door.

In his opening statement Tuesday, Thomas told jurors that Szaban admitted to setting the fire and gave a detailed description of how he did so in a recorded telephone call.

When police went to Szaban’s house Feb. 9, 2012, to arrest him in connection with the fire, Szaban brandished a pellet rifle with an attached laser scope.

Thomas said in court that Szaban had aimed the rifle at two officers, so a red dot made by the laser scope was visible on each of their chests.

Police said when they identified themselves to Szaban he lowered the weapon. He was arrested without further incident.

In a prepared statement Thomas said, “It is the hope of the district attorney’s office that this sentence provides some closure for the LaBorde family as they move forward, as well as a measure of security for the town of Granby.”

Szaban has been held without bail since his arrest. His sentence will begin Friday, according to the DA’s office. He will receive credit for 495 days served in jail while awaiting trial.

Szaban was found not guilty of arson by a Hampshire Superior Court jury in an unrelated case in 2010.

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@gazettenet.com.

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