1. #1
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    Post Seton Hall Dorm Fire-Arson & Murder Charges!

    News Conference to be held today, June 12th

    NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - More than three years after a deadly fire
    swept through the lounge of a Seton Hall University dormitory, two
    men who were freshmen at the time have been charged with arson and
    murder.
    Both have denied any role in the blaze, which killed three
    students and injured more than 50 others.
    Sean Ryan, 22, who still attends the school, and Joseph LePore,
    22, now a senior at the University of Delaware, were arrested
    Wednesday after an Essex County grand jury indicted them on more
    than 60 counts in connection with the Jan. 19, 2000, fire at Boland
    Hall. They were jailed on $2 million bail and scheduled to appear
    in court Thursday, their attorneys said.
    Acting County Prosecutor Donald Campolo scheduled a news
    conference Thursday where he planned to announce the indictments of
    several other people accused of obstructing or hindering the
    investigation.
    Prosecutors believe the blaze began when a homemade paper banner
    left draped over a couch in the dorm's third-floor lounge was
    ignited.
    The fire was discovered about 4:30 a.m. As smoke poured into the
    halls, scared students in pajamas grabbed coats or blankets and
    fled into bitter pre-dawn cold. One leaped from a window of the
    six-story hall.
    Students Frank Caltabilota of West Long Branch, John Giunta of
    Vineland and Aaron Karol of Green Brook died in the fire. Two of
    the men were found in the lounge and the other was in a nearby
    room.
    The 48-year-old building did not have sprinklers because it was
    built before they were required. The university has since installed
    them, and the state created a new law requiring all dorm rooms in
    New Jersey to have sprinklers by 2004.
    The grand jury that handed up the indictment spent nearly two
    years hearing from dozens of students who lived at the dormitory.
    They also heard from state police detectives who took statements
    from students early in the investigation, as well as firefighters
    and rescue workers.

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    Pay attention to this case. We are going to go to school on the right way to conduct a fire investigation. These guys worked long and hard on this case. They are the best. Congrats.

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    George, who did the main investigation? I read in one paper it was the essex county arson squad. Now I am seeing the state police. How does this work? With the death in a school would the ATF get involved. I can't imagine the hard work they all must of put in. Great job.
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    Also George, I thought that New Jersey does not use the felony term. So what degree of murder will they be facing? Or is it going to be manslaughter?
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    NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Thanking victims and family members for
    their patience during an "extraordinarily complex" investigation,
    prosecutors Thursday announced charges against two students in the
    Seton Hall University dorm fire that killed three students more
    than three years ago.
    Joseph T. LePore, 22, of Florham Park, and Sean Ryan, 22, of
    Livingston, were arrested Wednesday on charges of felony murder,
    arson, aggravated assault and conspiring in a coverup. The men were
    residents of Boland Hall, the dormitory where the fire broke out
    Jan. 19, 2000.
    Acting Essex County Prosecutor Donald Campolo said LePore and
    Ryan used matches or a lighter to ignite a paper poster that had
    been torn down and placed on a couch made of highly flammable foam
    material.
    The indictments were handed up by a special grand jury Wednesday
    and in September but sealed until Thursday morning, Campolo said. A
    deadline for ending the grand jury's investigation had been
    extended several times.
    LePore and Ryan were jailed on $2 million bail each. An
    arraignment had not been scheduled.
    Campolo said Ryan was arrested without incident after walking
    out of a tanning salon in East Hanover. LePore was arrested outside
    an apartment complex in Florham Park, after he backed his car into
    an officer's vehicle while trying to flee when officers approached,
    the prosecutor said. He said LePore faces additional charges in
    Morris County for the incident.
    Ryan was still enrolled at Seton Hall, but was suspended
    Thursday upon his indictment, said Robina Schepp, a university
    spokeswoman.
    LePore left the university after spring term 2000, Schepp said.
    Neil Thomas, a spokesman for the University of Delaware, would say
    only that LePore was enrolled there.
    Ryan's lawyer, Michael S. Bubb, said his client "didn't do
    it."
    "Sean, shortly after this fire, was interviewed extensively, by
    the police both from the state police arson squad, the Essex County
    arson squad," Bubb said. "He denied culpability, has consistently
    denied culpability, and continues to deny culpability."
    LePore's lawyer, William J. DeMarco, did not return calls.
    There had been rumors on campus soon after the fire that LePore
    and Ryan were involved, according to lawyers for some of the
    victims' families.
    "They always had the feeling that it was a deliberate act,"
    said Michael Testa, a lawyer for the parents of John Guinta, one of
    three freshmen who died.
    Shawn Simons, who was badly burned and spent two months in a
    coma after the fire, said he was relieved.
    "It's definitely a sense of relief after 3 1/2 years," he
    said. "It actually brings a little bit of closure to the whole
    case."
    The indictments also charged LePore's father, Joseph E. LePore,
    58; his mother, Maria LePore, 55; and his sister Lauren, 24, with
    obstruction of justice, hindering apprehension and conspiracy.
    Lauren LePore is also charged with perjury.
    Salvatore Alfano, a lawyer for Joseph E. LePore, denied the
    charges against both father and son.
    "In my view, this is nothing more than a prosecutor who yielded
    to public and political pressure to bring charges after three years
    of an investigation that went nowhere," Alfano said.
    Another student, Santino Cataldo, 21, of East Hanover, is
    charged with witness tampering, obstruction and conspiracy. Cataldo
    is accused of meeting with Ryan and LePore two days after the fire,
    then lying to investigators about their involvement. He has also
    been suspended.
    The 2000 fire started at about 4:30 a.m. from a third-floor
    lounge of Boland Hall, home to 600 freshman at the South Orange
    campus. Killed were freshmen Frank Caltabilota of West Long Branch,
    John Giunta of Vineland and Aaron Karol of Green Brook, all 18.
    More than 50 others were injured, some critically.
    As the smoke poured into the halls, scared students in pajamas
    grabbed coats or blankets and fled into bitter cold. One leaped
    from a window of the six-story dorm.
    The 48-year-old building did not have sprinklers because it was
    built before they were required. The university has since installed
    them, and the state enacted a new law requiring all dorm rooms in
    New Jersey to have sprinklers by 2004.
    State fire inspectors found numerous fire code violations at the
    dormitory following the blaze, but the university was found not to
    have had any criminal liability in the case, said Jeffrey
    Cartwright, an assistant Essex County prosecutor who heads the
    county arson squad.
    Campolo said no single piece of evidence broke the case for
    authorities, noting that investigators interviewed hundreds of the
    dorm's residents, recreated the fire and conducted an undercover
    investigation.
    "The crime scene was literally consumed by fire. Add to this
    the fact that certain individuals engaged in a coverup from day
    one," Campolo said.
    The special grand jury also issued a recommendation that the
    state adopt flammability standards for furniture used in public and
    private settings.
    State Community Affairs Commissioner Susan Bass Levin said she
    would work with legislators to adopt such standards.
    The indictment also charged Rivano Andika, 29, of Jersey City
    with terroristic threats. Authorities said that a day after the
    fire, Andika sent an e-mail to Seton Hall that read, "Warning: We
    will do it again targeting WASPS and their spoiled children who go
    to schools that overcharge." Andika is not charged with having any
    role in the fire.

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    Post Seton Hall- The timeline of events

    At about 4:30 a.m. on Jan. 19, 2000, a fire started in a third
    floor lounge of Boland Hall, a dorm at Seton Hall University. Three
    students died in the blaze and more than 50 were injured.
    The tragedy led to dozens of lawsuits, out-of-court settlements
    and legislative action:
    -Jan. 20, 2000: Seton Hall officials receive an e-mail
    threatening another, more deadly fire.
    -Feb. 3, 2000: State inspectors find fire code violations at
    Boland Hall and take over annual inspections at Seton Hall from the
    South Orange Fire Department.
    -July 5, 2000: Gov. Christie Whitman signs a law requiring all
    college and residential high school dorms in New Jersey to be
    outfitted with sprinkler systems within four years. By the start of
    the school year last fall, about three-quarters of the state's dorm
    beds were protected by sprinklers, according to a state report.
    -July 2000: The federal government fines Seton Hall $12,600 for
    failing to have a fire plan in place to protect its employees.
    -August 2000: Resident assistants at the university undergo
    intensive fire prevention training, including spending a day at the
    Middlesex County Fire Academy.
    -Jan. 18, 2002: Fire survivors and families of the three killed
    file lawsuits claiming security companies, manufacturers of dorm
    furnishings, the Village of South Orange and whoever started the
    fire should bear responsibility for it. By then, Seton Hall had
    agreed to out-of-court settlements with nearly 20 fire victims or
    their families.
    -May 12, 2003: The three students who died in the fire - Frank
    Caltabilota, John Giunta and Aaron Karol - are awarded posthumous
    degrees during their class' somber graduation ceremony.
    -June 11, 2003: Joseph E. LePore, 21, of Florham Park, and Sean
    Ryan, 21, of Livingston, arrested on charges of felony murder,
    arson and aggravated assault.
    -June 12, 2003: Prosecutors unseal an indictment charging
    LePore, along with members of his family and another student with
    obstruction of justice. Another man, Rivano Andika, of Jersey City,
    was indicted on charges of making terroristic threats to Seton Hall
    the day after the fire.


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    This investigation was essentially conducted by two agencies. The Essex County Prosecutor's Office Arson Task Force and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Newark Field Office. The NJSP assisted in the early stages of the investigation, but they were not the lead agency. The "cop" stuff was all done by ECPO. They are just about the best and did an absolutely incredible job in this invest. You guys have no idea how hard this invest. was.

    Felony murder is the generic name for this statute:

    2C:11-3. Murder.

    a.Except as provided in N.J.S.2C:11-4, criminal homicide constitutes murder when:

    (1)The actor purposely causes death or serious bodily injury resulting in death; or

    (2)The actor knowingly causes death or serious bodily injury resulting in death; or

    (3)It is committed when the actor, acting either alone or with one or more other persons, is engaged in the commission of, or an attempt to commit, or flight after committing or attempting to commit robbery, sexual assault, arson, burglary, kidnapping, carjacking, criminal escape or terrorism pursuant to section 2 of P.L.2002, c.26 (C.2C:38-2), and in the course of such crime or of immediate flight therefrom, any person causes the death of a person other than one of the participants;


    It is a crime of the first degree. That means "Bye-bye Mommy, see you in about 20 years".

    The neat thing about this statute is that the death does not have to occur purposely. The charge is used when the death is the direct result of criminal conduct. For example, we used it one time when a security guard had a fatal heart attack when he was fighting a fire that had been set at a health care facility. Another jurisdiction used it when a police officer was killed responding to a false 911 call.

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    Post Arraignment July 30th

    NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Two men charged with setting a dorm fire
    that killed three Seton Hall University students in 2000 are among
    seven defendants in the case who will be arraigned in state court
    Wednesday.
    Joseph T. LePore and Sean Ryan, who were students at Seton Hall
    at the time of the fire, have said they are innocent of charges
    including felony murder and arson. The men, both 22, are free on
    bail.
    Also scheduled to be arraigned before Superior Court Judge
    Harold W. Fullilove are Lepore's sister, Lauren, and parents,
    Joseph E. and Maria LePore, who were charged with conspiracy.
    Santino Cataldo of East Hanover, a classmate of LePore and Ryan,
    was charged with witness tampering. Rivano Andika of Jersey City
    was charged with making a terroristic threat against the school
    after the fire.
    The charges were laid out in a 62-count indictment unsealed June
    12 after an investigation led by the Essex County Prosecutor's
    Office.
    The fire on Jan. 19, 2000, started at 4:30 a.m. in a third-floor
    lounge of Boland Hall, home to 600 freshman at the South Orange
    campus. The blaze killed 19-year-old freshmen Frank Caltabilota of
    West Long Branch, John Giunta of Vineland and Aaron Karol of Green
    Brook.
    More than 50 others were injured.

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    Post

    By WAYNE PARRY
    Associated Press Writer
    NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Two students charged with setting the deadly
    Seton Hall University dormitory fire pleaded innocent Wednesday and
    were allowed to remain free on bail.
    Three other defendants, including the mother and sister of one
    of the students, also entered innocent pleas and remained free.
    Joseph T. LePore and Sean Ryan, both 22, who were students at
    Seton Hall at the time of the fire, are charged with felony murder
    and arson. LePore is free on $2 million bail, while Ryan is free on
    $1.2 million bail.
    Also appearing before Superior Court Judge Harold W. Fullilove
    were Lepore's sister, Lauren, and his mother, Maria LePore, who
    were charged with conspiracy, and Santino Cataldo of East Hanover,
    a classmate of LePore and Ryan, who was charged with witness
    tampering. Rivano Andika of Jersey City, charged with making a
    terroristic threat against the school after the fire, also pleaded
    innocent later on Wednesday.
    LePore's father, Joseph E. LePore, also charged with witness
    tampering, is to be arraigned Thursday.
    Among the spectators in the courtroom was Joseph Karol of Green
    Brook, whose son, Aaron, was one of three 19-year-old freshmen
    killed in the blaze. The other two were Frank Caltabilota of West
    Long Branch, and John Giunta of Vineland.
    "I wanted to see my son's accused killers up close," he said
    after the hearing. "It was difficult, but I have complete faith in
    (Essex County Prosecutor Donald) Campolo. I'm confident we will
    have justice."
    Fullilove scheduled a status conference for Sept. 22.
    Outside the court, LePore's lawyer, William DeMarco, denied his
    client had anything to do with the fire and again blasted the Essex
    County Prosecutor's Office for placing a hidden listening device in
    the LePores' Florham Park home.
    "It's an attempt to destroy a family," DeMarco said. "It
    seems that in New Jersey it's a crime for a family to stay together
    and support one another.
    "I have some questions about the appropriateness and legality
    of it," he said. "It's outrageous. It's nonsense."
    Ryan and his attorney, Michael Bubb, left the courthouse without
    speaking to reporters.
    DeMarco also questioned the three-year lapse between the fire
    and the filing of charges.
    "It took so long because the case is so weak," he said. "The
    pressure was on the prosecutor, and Campolo had to come up with
    something. He indicted my client on no more evidence than he had in
    January or February of 2000."
    Charges against the defendants were laid out in a 62-count
    indictment unsealed June 12 after an investigation led by the
    prosecutor's office.
    The fire on Jan. 19, 2000, started at 4:30 a.m. in a third-floor
    lounge of Boland Hall, home to 600 freshmen at the South Orange
    campus. In addition to the deaths, more than 50 students were
    injured.


    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/927882/posts
    Some interesting reading on this tragedy. One poster's comment really caught my attention:

    "You know, if it had been a warehouse full of boom boxes, Studebaker parts or turnips the state would have required the building to have a sprinkler system."

    Hmmmm...

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    Post Update

    NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - A prosecutor suggested that two former Seton
    Hall students set the deadly dormitory fire that killed three
    people to settle a grudge against a supervisor on their floor,
    according to a published report.
    The Star-Ledger of Newark, citing transcripts of a grand jury
    investigation it was able to review, reported in Thursday's
    editions that Essex County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Norman Menz,
    speaking during his summation of the evidence on June 5, told the
    grand jurors that Sean Ryan and Joseph T. LePore had a history of
    playing pranks against Seton Hall student Dan Nugent. He was a
    resident assistant on Boland Hall's third floor.
    In the early morning hours of Jan. 19, 2000, Menz said, Nugent
    repeatedly complained to Ryan and LePore, then freshmen, for making
    too much noise. The final confrontation took place about 4 a.m.,
    when Nugent called the pair's room, the prosecutor said. Within 30
    minutes, the fire was raging in the third-floor lounge.
    In addition to the three students killed in the blaze, 58 others
    were injured.
    In his closed-door summation, Menz acknowledged the absence of
    eyewitnesses and direct physical evidence in the case, but said the
    altercations "could lead one to the conclusion that Joseph T.
    LePore and Sean Ryan had motives to get back at Dan Nugent, who was
    trying to sleep, by setting Nugent's bulletin board decorations on
    fire and pounding on his door."
    Shortly afterward, the grand jury indicted Ryan and LePore on
    charges of arson, reckless manslaughter, aggravated assault and
    felony murder. Both men, now 22, have pleaded not guilty to the
    charges and are free on bail.
    Acting Essex County Prosecutor Donald Campolo has refused to
    discuss a possible motive for the fire.
    But defense lawyers who have reviewed the grand jury testimony
    say no witnesses testified to support Menz's conclusions.
    One key witness, for instance, testified that LePore's parents,
    Joseph E. LePore and Maria LePore, confided in him just months
    after the fire that their son had been involved but that the blaze
    had been accidental.
    The witness, Daniel "Bobo" Ricciardi, said the parents told
    him that Ryan and LePore, after a night of heavy drinking, were
    playing with lighter fluid in a "prank that went bad."
    "He said they were fooling around, you know, you put it in your
    mouth, spit it out and it puts out a flame," Ricciardi said
    LePore's father told him in May 2000. Maria LePore made similar
    comments in an earlier conversation, Ricciardi testified.
    Ricciardi, a former mobster who has previously worked as an
    informant for the federal government, is the younger brother of
    Thomas Ricciardi, a Mafia hit man who has admitted a role in nine
    murders.
    In return for information provided by his brother, Thomas
    Ricciardi cut a deal with the Essex County Prosecutor's Office,
    shaving a year off a 10-year prison term in exchange for his help
    in the Seton Hall probe. He was released Sept. 6, 2001, and is in
    the Witness Protection Program.
    Based largely on Daniel Ricciardi's contention that LePore's
    parents implicated their son, Essex County prosecutors obtained a
    court order allowing them to plant listening devices in the LePore
    family's Florham Park home in the summer of 2001. Wiretaps also
    were placed on the LePores' home phone and on Maria LePore's cell
    phone.
    Conversations recorded by those listening devices, in turn,
    helped form the basis for an obstruction of justice indictment
    brought against LePore, his parents and his sister, 24-year-old
    Lauren LePore. Ryan and a longtime friend, Seton Hall student
    Santino "Tino" Cataldo, also are charged with obstructing the
    probe.
    Defense lawyers call Ricciardi an opportunistic liar who
    fabricated the conversations to help his brother arrange an early
    release from prison.
    "I think what happened here was that he accidentally found out
    from his girlfriend, who was working with Mrs. LePore, that
    prosecutors were interested in her son, and that was his opening,"
    William DeMarco, who represents the younger Joseph LePore, told The
    Star-Ledger. "He says he knew Mr. LePore for years, but he didn't
    know Mr. LePore from a hole in the wall.
    "If anything, this demonstrates the complete and utter
    desperation of prosecutors in lowering themselves and bending to
    use Bobo Ricciardi," DeMarco told the newspaper.
    In his summation, Menz, the chief assistant prosecutor, stressed
    what he called the antagonism between the defendants and Nugent,
    one of two resident assistants on Boland Hall's third floor.
    "The entire history of the relationship of Sean Ryan and Joseph
    T. LePore and Nugent suggests he was constantly the butt of their
    pranks," Menz said. Nugent once cited the pair for suspicion of
    marijuana use in their room.
    John Grogan, one of two lawyers representing Ryan, dismissed the
    prosecution's revenge theory, telling the newspaper that even
    Nugent did not mention any long-standing feud in his testimony.


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    Default Update

    NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Jury selection at the Seton Hall dorm fire
    is scheduled to begin on September 22nd.
    Two former students are accused of setting the blaze that killed
    three students in 2000.
    Sean Ryan and Joseph LePore are charged with felony murder,
    arson and reckless manslaughter.

    The 25-year-olds also face five charges of aggravated assault
    for the five people critically injured in the blaze.
    Prosecutors allege the dorm fire started after the roommates
    ignited a banner left on a couch.


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    Post Update 9/7/06

    Seton Hall fire defendant's statements to be allowed at trial
    By WAYNE PARRY
    Associated Press Writer
    NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Statements by one of two former students
    charged with setting the deadly Seton Hall dorm fire six years ago
    in which he asserted he is "no rat" will be allowed at his trial,
    as will details of his attempt to escape from authorities as they
    tried to arrest him, a judge ruled Thursday.
    Superior Court Judge Harold Fullilove ruled that Joseph T.
    LePore's statements were made voluntarily, and that he did not have
    to be read his Miranda rights before being questioned because he
    was not in custody.
    LePore and Sean Ryan, both 25, are charged with felony murder,
    arson and reckless manslaughter in the Jan. 19, 2000 blaze that
    killed three students and injured 58 others. Prosecutors allege the
    dorm fire started after the two roommates ignited a banner left on
    a couch.
    At issue were statements LePore made to investigators shortly
    afterward in which he said he did not know who set the fire at
    Boland Hall. When asked hypothetically whether, if he did know who
    did it, he would provide that information to authorities, LePore
    replied, "I'm no rat."
    After an assistant Essex County prosecutor told police officers
    that LePore had hired an attorney and that questioning should stop,
    LePore said while on his way out of the interrogation room, "I'd
    love to talk to you, but my mother says I can't."
    Maria LePore is charged with obstruction.
    The judge ruled that LePore and Ryan voluntarily appeared for
    the interviews "as did many other students."
    Fullilove said that LePore, who was driven to police
    headquarters in an unmarked car by plainclothes officers, was not
    searched or asked to surrender personal property, was not placed
    under arrest and was free to leave.
    "We are very pleased with the judge's decision," said Paul
    Loriquet, a spokesman for the Essex County Prosecutor's Office.
    "We look forward to a full presentation of all the facts."
    Lawyers for the two defendants did not immediately return calls
    seeking comment Thursday afternoon.
    They had argued that testimony of various law enforcement
    officers was fabricated, either before the grand jury that indicted
    the defendants or at some other time, an assertion Fullilove
    rejected.
    The judge also ruled that the statements, which in and of
    themselves might not be enough to prove anything, when combined
    with other evidence and testimony during a trial could prove
    relevant.
    Defense lawyers had also sought to keep a jury from hearing
    about the circumstances of LePore's arrest in June 2003, including
    how he tried to escape from officers. LePore was charged with
    assault after a collision with a law enforcement vehicle.
    The judge ruled that it should be up to the jury to decide if
    LePore's flight was evidence of consciousness of guilt.
    Jury selection in the trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 22.

    (Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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    Post Jury selection starts

    Jury selection starts in N.J. for trial in Seton Hall dorm fire
    that killed 3 freshmen

    NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Nearly seven years after a dorm fire killed
    three freshmen at Seton Hall University, the trial of two former
    college roommates charged with murder and arson in the blaze began
    Monday with jury selection.
    Sean Ryan and Joseph T. LePore could each face at least 30 years
    in prison if convicted of murder. Both deny setting the fire.
    Superior Court Judge Harold W. Fullilove has said the trial
    could last six to eight weeks.
    The fire started early on the morning of Jan. 19, 2000, in a
    third-floor lounge in Boland Hall, a freshman dormitory on the
    private school's South Orange campus.
    Prosecutors say Ryan and LePore, who were roommates in the dorm,
    set fire to a banner, which ignited a couch and poured dense smoke
    through the dormitory.
    The fire injured 58 people and killed Frank Caltabilota, of West
    Long Branch, John Giunta, of Vineland, and Aaron Karol, of Green
    Brook, all 18.
    Ryan and LePore, both now 26 and free on bail, face 14 counts,
    including three murder charges and five charges of aggravated
    assault for the five people critically injured.

    (Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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    Its been so long....a job well done to the investigators!

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    Arrow Trial to begin nearly 7 years after fatal dorm fire

    By JEFFREY GOLD
    Associated Press Writer
    NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Nearly seven years ago, terrified students
    fled a Seton Hall University dormitory as choking smoke from a
    burning couch filled the building. Three freshmen were overcome
    before they could escape and perished inside the building.
    No one was charged until 2003, when prosecutors accused two
    roommates in the dormitory of igniting a banner on the couch in a
    third-floor lounge.
    The trial of the former students on murder, arson and other
    charges is scheduled to begin Tuesday with opening statements.
    The fire on Jan. 19, 2000, resonated beyond Boland Hall and the
    Roman Catholic school in South Orange. In one response, New Jersey
    enacted the nation's first mandatory dormitory sprinkler law,
    requiring the devices at all residential colleges and boarding
    schools.
    The jury of 10 women and six men, which includes four
    alternates, was chosen over five court sessions last month from a
    pool of nearly 150 Essex County residents. That pool was left after
    dozens of the 240 possible jurors told state Superior Court Judge
    Harold W. Fullilove that they had hardships that would prevent them
    from serving in a trial could last six to eight weeks.
    Sean Ryan and Joseph T. LePore could each face at least 30 years
    in prison if convicted of murder. The suspects deny setting the
    fire and are free on bail.
    Killed in the blaze were Frank Caltabilota of West Long Branch,
    John Giunta of Vineland, and Aaron Karol of Green Brook. Each was
    18.
    Ryan and LePore, both now 26, each face 14 counts. Each of the
    three murder charges carry the harshest penalty, with a minimum
    30-year prison term. They also face five charges of aggravated
    assault for the five people critically injured.
    Over the summer, Fullilove dismissed 49 charges of aggravated
    assault, brought for 49 students who were hurt while escaping the
    fire. Prosecutors said they wanted to "streamline" their case and
    said the dismissals would not change the amount of prison time if
    the suspects are convicted of the most serious charges.
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    Post Delayed

    Trial delayed in fatal dorm fire at Seton Hall University

    NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - A judge on Tuesday delayed the start of a
    trial of two former Seton Hall students accused of setting a
    dormitory fire nearly seven years ago that killed three freshmen.
    The trial of Sean Ryan and Joseph T. LePore on murder, arson and
    other charges was scheduled to begin Tuesday with opening
    statements, but was delayed until Wednesday. Instead, the judge
    interviewed each of the 16 jurors, swore them all in and sent them
    home for the day.
    The judge did not say why he delayed the trial and the juror
    interviews could not be heard from the court gallery. On Monday,
    the defense had moved for a mistrial because of pre-trial media
    coverage of the case.
    No one was charged in the case until 2003, when prosecutors
    accused Ryan and LePore, two roommates in the dormitory, of
    igniting a banner on a couch in a third-floor lounge.
    The fire on Jan. 19, 2000, resonated beyond Boland Hall and the
    Roman Catholic school in South Orange. In one response, New Jersey
    enacted the nation's first mandatory dormitory sprinkler law,
    requiring the devices at all residential colleges and boarding
    schools.
    Ryan and LePore could each face at least 30 years in prison if
    convicted of murder. The suspects deny setting the fire and are
    free on bail.
    The men, both now 26, each face 14 counts. Each of the three
    murder charges carry the harshest penalty, with a minimum 30-year
    prison term. They also face five charges of aggravated assault for
    five people who were critically injured.
    Killed in the blaze were 18-year-olds Frank Caltabilota of West
    Long Branch, John Giunta of Vineland, and Aaron Karol of Green
    Brook. They were overcome by smoke before they could flee the
    building.
    Over the summer, Superior Court Judge Harold W. Fullilove
    dismissed 49 charges of aggravated assault, brought for 49 students
    who were hurt while escaping the fire. Prosecutors said they wanted
    to "streamline" their case and said the dismissals would not
    change the amount of prison time if the suspects are convicted of
    the most serious charges.
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    Default Plea deal in Seton Hall fire

    As noted on the main page, too...

    Plea deal in Seton Hall fire

    The Associated Press

    November 15, 2006, 10:57 AM EST

    Two former college roommates charged with setting a dorm fire that killed three students at Seton Hall University pleaded guilty Wednesday in a deal with prosecutors as their trial was about to start.

    Under the deal, murder charges against the two were dismissed and each is to be sentenced to 16 months to five years in prison.

    Fines also could be imposed at their sentencing Jan. 26.

    Joseph T. LePore pleaded guilty to third-degree arson, third-degree tampering, a disorderly persons offense and resisting arrest.

    Sean Ryan pleaded guilty to third-degree arson and third-degree witness tampering.

    The two had ignited a banner in a third-floor lounge of their dormitory, which set a couch ablaze at the Roman Catholic school in South Orange. Three students were overcome by the smoke and died, and dozens of others were injured trying to escape.

    For years, LePore and Ryan denied starting the Jan. 19, 2000, fire, but on Wednesday, they acknowledged their involvement.

    "I did not intend to harm anyone. It was a prank that got out of hand," Ryan said.

    The deadly fire led New Jersey to enact the nation's first mandatory dormitory sprinkler law, requiring the devices at all residential colleges and boarding schools.

    Ryan and LePore, both now 26 and longtime friends from Florham Park, each could have faced 30 years in prison if convicted of murder. Killed in the blaze were 18-year-olds Frank Caltabilota of West Long Branch, John Giunta of Vineland, and Aaron Karol of Green Brook.

    Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.
    "When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for my having been there."
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    Angry

    "I did not intend to harm anyone. It was a prank that got out of hand," Ryan said.
    That is no comfort to the families of the three victims.

    Under the deal, murder charges against the two were dismissed and each is to be sentenced to 16 months to five years in prison.
    A slap on the wrist. A simple slap on the wrist.

    Ryan and LePore, both now 26 and longtime friends from Florham Park, each could have faced 30 years in prison if convicted of murder. Killed in the blaze were 18-year-olds Frank Caltabilota of West Long Branch, John Giunta of Vineland, and Aaron Karol of Green Brook.
    Ryan and LePore, both now 26 and longtime friends from Florham Park, each should have faced 30 years in prison!!!

    Quite disappointing in my eyes.
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    Default

    That is no comfort to the families of the three victims.
    Not to mention the ones that survived and have deal with the "recovery" and psychological damages. At least they didn't have to testify 7 years later. If that's any comfort.
    "When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for my having been there."
    -- Jim Henson (1936 - 1990)

  21. #21
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    I just don't understand it.
    They have an ADMISSION OF GUILT and plea bargained.
    That absolutely sucks.
    Prosecutors have gotten so comfortable with bargaining their cases that they have forgotten how to TRY them.
    What concerned the prosecutors in this case that compelled them to deal with these two murderers?
    Oh my; a college prank that went bad? Just so happens that the "prank" killed three young adults.
    And the reason that there will be other dangerous pranks with fatal consequences will be "it was just a prank" defense.
    Well, your honor, I thought I was stabbing my ex-girlfriend 37 times with what I THOUGHT was a rubber knife. Someone pulled a prank on me and switched knives. Can't we just chalk this up to "lesson learned"?
    Case dismissed.
    Yes; I'm angry at our interpretation of justice.
    My heart goes out to the families of the victims. Oh and sue the crap out of them for their "prank that went bad". And if I am a taxpayer, I want restitution for the dorm that burnt to the ground. No prank.
    CR
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    Angry More Details....unbelieveable

    NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Nearly seven years after a dormitory fire
    killed three students at Seton Hall University, two former
    roommates pleaded guilty Wednesday to arson, admitting for the
    first time that they set a banner ablaze in a prank that tragically
    got out of hand.
    Joseph T. LePore and Sean Ryan, both 26, struck a deal with
    prosecutors as they were about to go on trial on murder charges.
    They will get no more than five years in prison, compared with 30
    years or more if they had been convicted of murder.
    Prosecutors said LePore and Ryan, up late after celebrating a
    victory by the basketball team, set the banner on fire in a
    third-floor lounge around 4:30 a.m. on Jan. 19, 2000, and the
    flames spread to a couch. The fire was largely confined to the
    lounge, but choking smoke spread throughout the six-story dorm.
    Eighteen-year-old freshmen Frank Caltabilota, John Giunta and
    Aaron Karol were overcome by smoke and died. Dozens of others were
    injured, some of them seriously burned.
    "I did not intend to harm or injure anyone. It was a prank that
    got out of hand," the two young men, lifelong friends from Florham
    Park, said in matching statements.
    They also pleaded guilty to witness tampering for telling some
    friends to lie to authorities.
    Karol's father, Joseph Karol, thanked prosecutors for their
    dedication but said little else as he left the courthouse after the
    pleas. "I will tell you that I'll have plenty to say at
    sentencing," Karol said.
    The defendants did not speak to reporters. Their attorneys said
    that the men felt terrible about what happened but that it was not
    the time to speak or express remorse.
    The fire led New Jersey to enact the nation's first law
    requiring sprinklers in dormitories at colleges and boarding
    schools.
    The blaze was quickly determined to be arson. But the unsolved
    case haunted the Roman Catholic university and the criminal justice
    system for years. It was not until 2003 that the defendants were
    charged.
    Through their lawyers, the defendants had for years denied their
    involvement in the fire at the school in South Orange. The defense
    had decried the circumstantial case against the men, including
    information provided by a former mob hit man that helped
    prosecutors get a warrant to eavesdrop on LePore's family.
    As part of the deal Wednesday, prosecutors dropped charges
    against LePore's parents, sister and friend that included hindering
    apprehension.
    The men's lawyers said the deal was appropriate in part because
    the school did not have adequate systems to prevent the blaze from
    spreading.
    "The intervening cause was Seton Hall's lack of response in
    preventing fires," said William DeMarco, LePore's lawyer.
    The
    attorney noted that fire hoses had been removed a week before the
    fire, staff had no fire training, and the dorms "were rife with
    false alarms."
    "If they had fire suppression systems the fire would not have
    spread," DeMarco said.
    University spokesman Thomas White said the school was in full
    compliance with fire codes at the time. Dorm staff had fire and
    crisis training, and smoke detectors, alarms and extinguishers had
    been inspected, he said.
    Prosecutor Paula Dow said the defense lawyers had no business
    blaming the school.
    "They've had six years to come up with something and that's the
    best they can do? Shame on them," she said.
    Alvaro Llanos, who was severely burned in the fire and has had
    more than 30 surgeries since then, said he was glad the men
    admitted setting the fire and understood the prosecution would not
    want to risk acquittals, although he wanted them to get longer
    sentences.
    "They got off easily, with a slap on the wrist. Five years, if
    they do get five years, is not long enough," said Llanos, 25, who
    is now a sophomore at Seton Hall and works in the sports department
    of The Star-Ledger of Newark.
    Under the plea bargain, prosecutors will ask at sentencing Jan.
    26 that the men get a maximum of five years in prison, with no
    parole for at least 16 months. They could also be fined.
    Dow said the plea bargain was fair, especially because the
    state's case depended on circumstantial evidence. "We had no
    eyewitnesses, other than the defendants themselves, who could place
    the defendants at that location," she said.
    Dow, who spoke to reporters with relatives of the fire's victims
    behind her, said that most of the families supported the deals but
    that wanted harsher punishment. Most family members did not
    comment.
    ************************************************** *
    That's right...it was the school's fault...for not having proper suppression in place. Unbelieveable...and disgusting. It's like someone starting a forest fire...and the defense team blames the Bureau of Forestry for not having fire breaks in place...or not having homeowners be Firewise by clearing brush.

    Bogus...totally bogus..and it angers me that they will now get away with murder.
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    In New Jersey, play with fire and get off easy

    Friday, November 17, 2006

    By ALFRED P. DOBLIN
    RECORD COLUMNIST

    Survey: Does the punishment fit the crime?

    If you want to know what's wrong with the U.S. criminal justice system, read this quote from William DeMarco. He's the attorney for one of the arsonists who set fire to a banner inside a dormitory at Seton Hall. Referring to his client Joseph LePore, DeMarco said, "[He] is a young man. He wants to see his mother and father alive, he wants to be married, wants to do things that everyone does."

    It makes me want to vomit.

    LePore and Sean Ryan finally admitted that they started the fire in Boland Hall on Jan. 19, 2000, a fire that killed three people and injured 58. For admitting that they started the fire but are not responsible for the subsequent deaths or injuries, the two men -- yes, men, not 5-year-old children -- will receive five years in prison. They probably will be out in 16 months. The deal is a sham that spits on the graves of three young people and ignores a lifetime of suffering for some of the victims of the fire.

    It has been reported the evidence against LePore and Ryan was circumstantial. Yet if the evidence was so flimsy, why did LePore and Ryan make a deal? Attorney DeMarco said it was an assessment of risk -- take the deal rather than risk the trial. If they were innocent, there was little risk. But they were not. For years the families of the three dead students and the surviving victims have waited to hear LePore and Ryan admit their guilt.

    On Wednesday, they each said, "I didn't intend to harm anyone. It was just a prank that got out of hand."

    A prank? Setting a fire inside a dormitory is not a prank; it is arson. LePore and Ryan each had been charged with three counts of felony murder, three counts of manslaughter, five counts of aggravated assault and witness tampering. They pled guilty to third-degree arson and witness tampering.

    Holiday with their families

    DeMarco's statement on why LePore agreed to the deal outlined what LePore wants to do with his life after prison. Frank Caltabilota, John Giunta and Aaron Karol, the three dead victims of "a prank," don't have such a luxury. They are confined to coffins. Meanwhile LePore and Ryan are free on bail until sentencing on Jan. 26. They can spend the holidays with their families. How nice for them.

    DeMarco has tried to affix blame to Seton Hall because there was no fire-suppression system inside Boland Hall. Whether the dorm could have been more fireproof is separate from the most important fact: This was a deliberately set fire. It was not an accident. It was not the result of faulty wiring. It was the result of two young men thinking playing with fire inside a dormitory constituted a "prank."

    Prosecutors have done the public a tremendous disservice by making a deal. Last year I had a conversation with a fire official in a municipality that responds to fire calls at a state university. He had pictures of charred dormitory furniture. The furniture was constructed with flame retardant materials. It could not catch fire, but it could smoke and smolder. The fire official told me someone tried to ignite the fire-retardant furniture just to see what would happen. I guess that was a prank, too.

    Arson is not a game. Prosecutors should have been willing to chance that a jury would have sent both LePore and Ryan to prison for a very long time.

    Hard time

    As it is, prosecutors intend to recommend the two men serve out their sentences in a youth correctional facility. What a hardship. LePore and Ryan should be doing hard time in a nasty place. Part of their sentences should include a minimum of 1,000 hours of community service in a hospital burn unit. Maybe spending day after day with human beings who struggle to reclaim their lives after being severely burned will teach the two men that there is nothing funny about arson.

    Three dead, more than 50 injured and LePore and Ryan could be out and about after only 16 months in a youth correctional facility. Maybe this was a prank after all and the joke is on us?

    I'm not laughing.

    Alfred P. Doblin is the editorial page editor of The Record. Reach him at doblin@northjersey.com.
    "When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for my having been there."
    -- Jim Henson (1936 - 1990)

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    They also pleaded guilty to witness tampering for telling some
    friends to lie to authorities...
    The defendants did not speak to reporters...
    Their attorneys said that the men felt terrible about what happened but that it was not the time to speak or express remorse...
    The blaze was quickly determined to be arson...
    But the unsolved case haunted the Roman Catholic university and the criminal justice system for years...
    It was not until 2003 that the defendants were charged...
    Through their lawyers, the defendants had for years denied their
    involvement in the fire
    at the school in South Orange. The defense
    had decried the circumstantial case against the men, including
    information provided by a former mob hit man that helped
    prosecutors get a warrant to eavesdrop on LePore's family...
    As part of the deal Wednesday, prosecutors dropped charges against LePore's parents, sister and friend that included hindering
    apprehension.
    Yeah; these were good boys from good families. They set the fire, they denied it for years and family members wouldn't cooperate. I'm surprised the prosecutor didn't go for community service and a term paper.
    CR
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    Post Their time has come!

    Families of students killed in fire to speak at sentencing

    NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - It's been seven years since choking smoke
    killed three Seton Hall students and sent hundreds rushing into
    freezing pre-dawn weather.
    And today, two former roommates will be sentenced in an Essex
    County courtroom for setting the blaze at the school in South
    Orange.
    But first, the judge will hear from the families of those who
    died and from several survivors of the blaze.
    Under a plea bargain reached on the eve of their trial in
    November, Joseph LePore and Sean Ryan pleaded guilty to arson and
    witness tampering, saying the fire was "a prank that got out of
    hand."
    Prosecutors agreed to recommend that each be sentenced to no
    more than five years in a juvenile facility. They'll be eligible
    for parole in 16 months.
    LePore and Ryan, both now 26, could have faced more than 30
    years in prison if convicted on murder charges at trial.
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