The Richmond Register

August 13, 2012

EKU arson case headed to mediation

Defense attorney indicates McFarland wants jury trial

By Sarah Hogsed
Register News Writer

RICHMOND — The attorney for a former EKU student accused of setting two dorm fires told Madison Circuit Court that his client was more interested in having his case decided by a jury that working on a plea deal through mediation.

Samuel McFarland, 20, of Williamsburg, appeared in court Thursday for a pretrial hearing. Although his case had been set for a June 11 trial, the case was pushed back and a new trial date has not been set.

McFarland was arrested Oct. 14 after allegedly setting fire to two hallway bulletin boards in Commonwealth Hall, according to university spokesman Marc Whitt. The sprinkler system activated, and the building was evacuated with no injuries, he said.

McFarland is charged with first-degree arson, a Class A felony that carries a sentence of 20 years to life in prison. He also was indicted on charges of first-degree criminal mischief, first-degree wanton endangerment and first-degree promoting contraband. Those are all Class D felonies that carry sentences of one to five years.

Assistant Common-wealth’s Attorney Jennifer Smith said McFarland’s attorney has made numerous motions in the case, including one for discovery that requested the dorm’s elevators’ maintenance records for the past five years.

A defense motion to suppress certain evidence in the case also has been filed, Smith said.

Logue asked if felony mediation has been considered in the case. In mediation, both sides present a summary of their cases in 30 to 45 minutes in front of a special judge. The judge listens to the presentations then tries to mediate an agreement about jail time and restitution with input from the victimized party and the defendant.

Smith said the state would be agreeable to mediation. At a previous court appearance, she said a plea deal of five years in prison has been offered to McFarland, but he had not agreed to accept it.

McFarland’s attorney at first told the judge he would agree to whatever the court wanted, but Logue said she typically doesn’t force people into felony mediation.

Logue noted that McFarland is just 20 and could face at least 20 years in prison if he’s convicted of first-degree arson.

“We’re really not interested (in mediation),” the attorney said, adding that his client preferred to let a jury decide the case.

Logue said she’d fill out the order for mediation, but no one would be bound by any recommendations made during the process. She pointed out it would benefit all parties to have an “independent view” of the case from a special judge.

Logue also set a motion hearing in the case for 1:30 p.m. Sept. 26.

McFarland was out on bond Thursday despite having violated his previous $20,000 property bond by being arrested on a drunk driving charge Feb. 6 in Williamsburg. McFarland was released again July 6, according to the Madison County Detention Center’s website.

Sarah Hogsed can be reached at shogsed@richmondregister.com or 624-6694.