Massachusetts Judge Refuses to Quash Fatal Arson Evidence

August 24, 2011

A Massachusetts judge has rejected a plea to suppress evidence in the case of a Northampton man accused of setting 15 fires that left two men dead and damaged property and vehicles more than a year ago.

Prosecutors allege the fires in the pre-dawn hours of Dec. 27, 2009, were set by Anthony Baye. One of the fires destroyed a home and claimed the lives of 81-year-old Paul Yeskie, Sr., and 39-year-old Paul Yeskie, Jr.

Superior Court Judge Constance Sweeney on Monday rejected Baye’s attempts to suppress his alleged confession to police. His attorneys argued last spring that police conducted illegal motor vehicle stops on his vehicle on the night of the fires and that the troopers who questioned him failed to stop questions after he invoked his right to counsel. The suspect also claimed that that his statements were involuntary and that he was denied his right to prompt arraignment as a result of their interrogation of him.

But the judge disagreed, citing Baye’s willingness to talk to police even after he demanded an attorney. She also cited the fact that the man chose to admit his role in less serious fires, but changed his story when he was confronted with evidence that placed him near other fires shortly after the each blaze broke, undermined his claims that he was at a friend’s house.

“The defendant knew what he was doing when he made the admission and was quite selective in what he stated,” Sweeney said in a 44-page decision. “The defendant felt trapped by the evidence, not by the behavior or questioning techniques of the troopers. This is what caused him to make selective” incriminating statements.

The judge also acknowledged the fact that state troopers used coercive techniques as they pressed the suspect to admit that he set the fires, including a one trooper who repeatedly urged Baye to say that he set the fire as pranks, because pranks would just be considered as accidents.

That trooper also repeatedly boasted that he would be able to secure Baye a favorable treatment from prosecutors if he would admit to setting the fire, the judge said.

“While the troopers’ use of these techniques were improper and designed to coerce the defendant into admitting that he set the fires, I am convinced beyond reasonable doubt based on the credible evidence that the use of the improper techniques did not overbear the defendant’s exercise of his free will,” the judge said.

Baye has pleaded not guilty to numerous charges, including two counts of murder, three counts of armed burglary and 14 counts of burning a motor vehicle.

Baye, a former restaurant cook, was arrested about a week later and has been held without bail since.

One of his attorneys told The Republican newspaper that they are considering appealing against the decision.

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