Bond set at $750,000 for man accused of setting blaze that killed 3 Pittsburgh firefighters
March 10, 2014 11:26 PM
Gregory Brown Jr.
By Paula Reed Ward / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The judge who awarded a man a new trial last month for the 1995 blaze that killed three Pittsburgh firefighters set a $750,000 straight bond in the case Monday.
Judge Joseph K. Williams III also ordered that Greg Brown, 36, be held in Pittsburgh pending the outcome of that new trial if he cannot post bond.
The Allegheny County District Attorney's office almost immediately filed a notice of appeal.
Although Brown's attorneys praised the judge's decision to set a monetary figure, they acknowledged that being able to raise that amount is a "tall order."
"We're in a position now where it's possible Greg Brown and his family will be able to raise money and have a few days of freedom," said Dave Fawcett, one of the attorneys representing Brown. "It's a big obstacle, but Greg Brown has overcome other obstacles."
Brown was found guilty of three counts of second-degree murder in 1997 stemming from the deaths of three firefighters in a blaze at his Bricelyn Street home.
However, in February Judge Williams found that the prosecution and ATF agent working the case failed to disclose at trial that two key witnesses in the case were paid reward money in exchange for their testimony.
At the bond hearing on Monday, another of Brown's attorneys, Marissa Bluestine, told the judge that Brown's family has kept a close relationship with him despite the fact he is at the State Correctional Institution at Dallas, which is about six hours away. That familial support, combined with a history of always appearing for court proceedings, Ms. Bluestine argued, showed that Brown is not a flight risk.
"He has been wrongly imprisoned for half of his life, and he has fought every day to clear his name," she said.
Assistant District Attorney Ronald Wabby Jr. argued against setting a bond.
"They're violent offenses," he said.
Mr. Wabby asked the court to stay its opinion pending notice of appeal to the state Superior Court, but Judge Williams denied the request.
The prosecution filed a notice of appeal on the issue of the new trial being granted within 30 minutes of Judge Williams' announcement.
"It's very disappointing through this entire process, we were fought tooth and nail every step of the way," Mr. Fawcett said. "I would think the government would want to take some corrective action for what the ATF did. It looks, instead, like they're circling the wagons."
Paula Reed Ward: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-2620 or on Twitter @PaulaReedWard. First Published March 10, 2014 12:23 PM
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