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Man guilty of planning $10m arson on homes

BALTIMORE -- A man was found guilty yesterday of masterminding Maryland's largest residential arson -- a cluster of fires in December that caused $10 million in damage at a subdivision under construction.

Patrick Walsh, 21, was found guilty in federal court of conspiracy and all 34 arson counts for planning and helping set fires at the Hunters Brooke development in Indian Head. No one was hurt, but 10 homes were destroyed and 16 severely damaged.

Each count carries a possible prison term of up to 20 years and a $250,000 fine. Judge Roger Titus set a Dec. 5 sentencing date.

The trial was the first prosecution of a member of a group accused of causing the blaze in a Washington suburb. Two other men pleaded guilty and face sentencing Oct. 18, and another two are scheduled to go on trial early next year.

The jury began deliberations Thursday after hearing closing arguments at the end of the three-week trial.

Prosecutors painted Walsh as a man fascinated with fire and explosives who plotted and carried out the arson to gain attention for the gang he had formed.

One of those who pleaded guilty, Jeremy Parady, testified that Walsh was at Hunters Brooke early Dec. 6 and helped light the fires. Walsh's defense attorney, William Purpura, argued Walsh was at home playing computer games when the fires were set.

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