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Second perjury defendant ordered held without bail

Second perjury defendant ordered held without bail

A judge this week ordered the second of two new Hulett Street arson-related perjury defendants held
Second perjury defendant ordered held without bail
438 Hulett Street was the scene of the fatal fire that took the lives of 4 occupants early May 1, 2013.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

A judge this week ordered the second of two new Hulett Street arson-related perjury defendants held without bail pending trial, records show.

Documents filed by federal prosecutors also shed more light on the role Richard Ramsey, the man ordered held, ultimately allegedly told investigators he had the morning of the May 2, 2013 blaze that claimed four lives and maimed Safyre Terry.

Ramsey allegedly told investigators in November 2014 that he was the one — in the now largely discredited scenario — who drove Robert A. Butler, Jennica Duell and Bryan Fish to Schenectady where Butler set the fire.

In that scenario, Fish and Ramsey are now facing perjury charges for specific alleged lies to the federal grand jury investigating the case, detailed in indictments handed up last month. Duell is now serving more than 11 years in prison for her admitted lies. Butler, then 27, of Saratoga Springs, served nine months on charges he set the fire before prosecutors dropped the charge in February 2014 and he was released.

Federal prosecutors Monday successfully argued that Ramsey be held. He is facing a total of four federal perjury counts, specifically accused of lies to the grand jury related to allegedly saying he allowed Butler to borrow his car that morning.

Prosecutors, in their filing, called Ramsey’s conduct “an affront to the integrity of our judicial system” and called Ramsey a flight risk.

Ramsey’s attorney Lee Kindlon responded in his own filing saying investigators for the Schenectady Police and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sought his client out as part of a “short-sighted and narrowly-focused investigation.”

“Instead of tracking down leads and actually investigating the case, they instead sought out Mr. Ramsey and encouraged him to give these statements in an attempt to bolster their weak theory of prosecution,” Kindlon wrote. “It was not Mr. Ramsey who created these problems of which the Government complains; to claim otherwise and then openly fret about the integrity of the criminal justice system is shameless audacity.”

Ramsey, 47, of Saratoga Springs, and Fish, 22, of Schenectady, became the third and fourth persons charged with perjury in the overall Hulett Street arson investigation last month.

Like Fish, Judge Christian F. Hummel ordered Ramsey held without bail pending trial.

They follow perjury indictments filed against Duell and another man, Edward Leon, in November 2014. Duell pleaded guilty earlier this year. Leon, charged in a different area of the case, was convicted a year ago after trial.

Prosecutors first indicted Duell and Leon in 2014, more than a year after the blaze at 438 Hulett St. that killed David Terry, 32, and his children, Layah, 3; Michael, 2; and Donavan Duell, 11 months. Safyre, found by firefighters in her father’s arms, suffered severe injuries and continues her recovery. Duell was the mother of each of the children.

Safyre became the focus of a worldwide Christmas card project in December 2015 and has been in the care of her aunt, Liz Dolder — David Terry’s sister — since leaving the hospital.

The prosecution filing arguing Ramsey be held also included new details in the progression of the investigation after Butler’s February 2014 release.

Butler’s release came as a second investigation, one against Leon, gained traction.

Leon, of St. Johnsville, has not been charged with setting the fire, but he has now been convicted of lying when he denied using an anonymous cell phone to send threatening text messages to David Terry in the days leading up to the fire and denying being in Schenectady the morning of the fire.

According to testimony in his perjury trial, Leon eventually admitted to investigators in January 2014 that he was in Schenectady that morning in front of the house and even saw a flame. He, however, denied starting the blaze. A street camera caught his unique van blocks from the scene just before the fire was reported.

But an affidavit included in the prosecution Ramsey filing is dated Nov. 19, 2014, 10 days after the initial Duell and Leon perjury indictments were handed up, indicating investigators continued to pursue the Butler scenario.

In the affidavit, Ramsey allegedly says he drove Butler, Duell and Fish himself. The driver in the Butler scenario, essentially how they got from Saratoga Springs to Schenectady, had been a problem for investigators.

According to papers filed in Fish’s case, Fish first pointed to his own brother as the driver. Confronted with his brother’s solid alibi, Fish then changed his account, saying only he, Duell and Butler traveled to Schenectady.

Fish, like Duell, has since recanted his testimony and Fish’s attorney called it a false confession under pressure from investigators.

Reach Gazette reporter Steven Cook at 395-3122, [email protected] or @ByStevenCook on Twitter.

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