Teen admits role in Amsterdam fire, other suspect fails to appear

One of two teenagers charged after last summer's massive fire on Brookside Avenue in Amsterdam enter

One of two teenagers charged after last summer’s massive fire on Brookside Avenue in Amsterdam entered a guilty plea in Montgomery County Family Court on Thursday.

The second teen didn’t show up as instructed and is now the subject of an arrest warrant.

The youth who attended Thursday’s court session, now16, pleaded guilty to the equivalent of third-degree criminal trespass, which would be a class A misdemeanor were he an adult.

The July 14 fire at the former Edy Brush Co. factory building at 81-89 Brookside Ave. destroyed the massive four-story brick structure, a neighboring home, another across the street and damaged a total of nine buildings, according to reports from the Amsterdam Police Department.

Police investigating the fire charged the two boys, then ages 13 and 15, with fourth-degree arson, criminal mischief and criminal trespass.

Officers said the boys essentially admitted to entering the building and starting a fire with some books in a barrel. They told police they thought they put out the blaze with a fire extinguisher they found inside, but police said the extinguisher was likely filled with water and the books continued to smolder.

The blaze turned into an inferno because the building — which had been foreclosed on and was owned by the city of Amsterdam at the time of the fire — was chock full of books. Prior to foreclosure, the building was occupied by a business called X-S Books.

Firefighters and police were at Family Court on Thursday hand to testify in a fact-finding hearing, similar to a trial, but the hearing was called off as one of the boys agreed to the plea arrangement. The boy and his mother referred questions to attorney Richard Weinheimer, who said Thursday he doesn’t expect the youth to get into any more trouble.

Following a pre-sentencing investigation by the county Probation Department, the youth could face one of several outcomes, Cortese said. The case could be adjourned in contemplation of dismissal, with the case expunged in six months if he doesn’t get into trouble.

A conditional discharge is another possible result, which could require specific conditions like going to school and not getting into trouble for 12 months.

Up to two years of probation or placement in another home under the supervision of the county’s Department of Social Services is the fourth and most severe possibility.

The youth will also have to pay up to $3,000 in restitution, and he will be expected to testify in the case of his co-defendant in the event that case goes to a separate trial.

Sentencing was scheduled for August.

Categories: Schenectady County

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