For Immediate Release
Baltimore Man Sentenced to 5 Years in Federal Prison for Setting Fire to Store During the Baltimore Riots
Second Defendant Previously Convicted for Attacking Store Owner
Baltimore, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis sentenced Darius Raymond Stewart, age 22, of Baltimore, Maryland today to five years in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for malicious destruction of property by fire, arising from the arson of a liquor store on April 27, 2015, during the riots following the death of Freddie Gray. One victim was seriously injured inside the store, and another escaped with minor injuries. Judge Garbis also ordered that Stewart pay restitution of $378,526.56, the approximate cost to repair and restore the building.
"Surveillance cameras recorded Darius Stewart setting fire to a store with people inside, while other rioters viciously attacked the store owner," said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. "When the evidence proves that criminals destroyed property and jeopardized lives, they must be held accountable."
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Daniel L. Board, Jr. of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) - Baltimore Field Division; Maryland State Fire Marshal Brian Geraci; and Commissioner Kevin Davis of the Baltimore Police Department.
According to his plea agreement, on April 27, 2015, during civil unrest in the wake of the funeral for Freddie Gray, there was widespread looting, and multiple structure and vehicle fires were set in Baltimore. The two owners of a liquor store located on West North Avenue were inside their store when the first wave of approximately 20 to 30 people entered the business and began banging on the bulletproof plexiglass window with pipes and crow bars. The group was chased off by a community member.
Shortly thereafter, a second wave of approximately 150 people entered the business and began ransacking and looting the store. One of the business owners was assaulted, including by Trevon Green, resulting in a facial injury, and was eventually rescued by police. Baltimore CitiWatch surveillance footage captured individuals robbing and repeatedly assaulting the owner as he was outside his store while it was being looted.
The second owner fled upstairs and was able to hide on an enclosed balcony as the looters broke down the door and looted the second floor.
At approximately 8:30 p.m. that night, Stewart set three fires inside the store. Surveillance footage clearly captured Stewart starting the fires and then going out to the street to get paper and cardboard to feed the fires he had set.
Smoke from the fires spread upstairs where the second owner was hiding. He was able to escape the burning building by using the gutter in an effort to slow his fall as he jumped to the ground. He suffered head trauma and injured his ankle. He was able to escape in his vehicle.
Baltimore City Fire Department responded to the scene. While extinguishing the fire, fire department personnel discovered an unconscious victim in the basement of the building. The victim suffered smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning, and was hospitalized for five days.
The investigation into arsons that occurred on April 27, 2015, is continuing. Anyone with information is urged to call the ATF hotline, 1-888-ATF-FIRE (1-888-283-3473). ATF continues to offer a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any individual responsible for these incidents.
Federal prosecutors previously have charged four other defendants for arson crimes committed during the Baltimore riots on April 27, 2015. Trevon Green, age 23, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty to the arson of a Baltimore food market and admitted that he participated in the looting of the liquor store set on fire by Stewart, and assaulted the store’s owner. Green is scheduled to be sentenced on August 24, 2016, at 3:00 p.m. Gregory Lee Butler, Jr., a/k/a Greg Baly, age 22, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty to the federal indictment charging him with obstruction of firefighters during a civil disorder, and is scheduled to be sentenced on September 20, 2016. Donta Betts, age 20, of Baltimore, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for making a destructive device in connection with the April 27, 2015, riots in Baltimore and, in an unrelated case, for discharge of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime on July 2, 2015. Raymon Carter, age 25, of Baltimore, Maryland, pleaded guilty to the federal crime of rioting, including the arson of the CVS Pharmacy on April 27, 2015, and was sentenced to four years in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $500,000.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended ATF, Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office, and the Baltimore City Police Department for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Judson T. Mihok, who prosecuted the case.