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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

For Immediate Release

January 15, 2010

Jenny A. Durkan, United States Attorney

Jefferson County Man Sentenced to 13+ Years in Prison For $2.8 Million Arson

Port Hadlock Man Set Fire Because of Jealousy over Girlfriend

KEVIN LEE GRAESSER, 32, of Port Hadlock, Washington, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 162 months in prison, five years of supervised release and $2.8 million in restitution for an arson of the Admiralty One Condominiums in Port Ludlow, Washington. Graesser started the fire in the early morning hours of December 2, 2004, which completely destroyed building 12 in the complex and damaged buildings 11 and 13. The loss was estimated at more than $2.7 million. Three people barely escaped the fire that had been set in a car in a carport beneath the condominium. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton said GRAESSER is a dangerous person. The fact that no one was killed or seriously injured in the fire is almost miraculous... The need to protect the community is higher here than in almost any case I’ve had in my seven years on the bench.

According to the plea agreement signed October 9, 2009, GRAESSER admitted that he went to the condominium project to seek revenge against a man he thought was living at the condo who Graesser believed was romantically involved with his girlfriend. GRAESSER drove to the Port Ludlow condominiums around 4:00 AM and recognized that individual’s car parked beneath building 12. The car and the condominium actually belonged to the individual’s grandmother. GRAESSER ignited a fire within the car which quickly spread to the carport and then to building 12. One of the residents heard a car horn and went down to investigate, saw the flames, and was able to alert the other residents of building 12 and one in building 13 to get them out of the building. The horn was likely triggered by a short in the electrical system as the fire burned. The man GRAESSER was targeting was not in the condo that night. Building 12 was totally destroyed. Building 13 was heavily damaged and on the other side of 12, Building 11 was also damaged.

Documents relating to GRAESSER’s guilty plea indicated that a sweatshirt was recovered from an area near the fire on a likely escape route from the fire scene. Several witnesses identified that sweatshirt as belonging to GRAESSER and forensic testing revealed his DNA as well. Plea documents also revealed that GRAESSER admitted the arson to others and at one point bragged about it during a phone call from the King County Jail, which call was recorded.

In their request for a lengthy prison term, prosecutors cited the extraordinary danger the defendant created and the consciousness he necessarily had of that danger. Although the defendant
may have thought (his target) was at the condo when the fire was set, the defendant knew as well
that (the target’s) grandmother lived there. She was 83 years old, hard of hearing, and not very spry. He had to have known the danger he put her in. At the time of the fire other cars were parked next to (the) Mercury Sable. That certainly revealed to the defendant that other people were probably present in the building directly above.

GRAESSER was arrested in Alaska on March 7, 2007. GRAESSER was indicted by the grand jury on April 12, 2007. He pleaded guilty on October 9, 2009.

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department.

The case was  prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Gregory A. Gruber and Kurt Hermanns.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov.