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Man admits perjury in Hulett Street arson case

Man admits perjury in Hulett Street arson case

Richard Ramsey admits to giving conflicting stories to grand jury
Man admits perjury in Hulett Street arson case
The aftermath of the May 2, 2013 Hulett Street fire is seen. Three people have been convicted of perjury related to the arson.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

ALBANY -- A Saratoga Springs man is now the third person found officially to have lied to the federal Hulett Street arson grand jury, U.S. Attorney's officials said Friday.

Richard Ramsey, 48, pleaded guilty in federal court to two counts of perjury. He admitted to telling the grand jury two versions about agreeing to allow a man to use his car during the morning of the May 2, 2013 Schenectady fire and then telling the grand jury later that both versions were false.

He is to be sentenced in April and faces up to 10 years in prison.

The arson fire claimed the lives of a father and three of his children. It also maimed then-5-year-old Safyre Terry.
No one is charged with setting the blaze, nearly four years later.

Ramsey's perjury related to a scenario that involved the man once charged with setting the fire, Robert A. Butler. Butler, then 27, spent nine months in jail before prosecutors dropped the charges against him when a main witness, Jennica Duell, recanted and another suspect, Edward Leon, emerged. Butler has since filed a federal civil rights wrongful arrest lawsuit against the law enforcement agencies involved.

Ramsey offered two versions to the grand jury of providing Butler a car the day before the fire, first by allowing Butler to pick up the car and the other dropping the car off at a Saratoga Springs address for Butler.

Ramsey recanted both accounts in May 2016.

"Perjury cannot, and will not be tolerated," U.S. Attorney Richard Hartunian said in a statement. " Ramsey's decision to lie to a federal grand jury reflects a shocking disregard for the law and the victims of this horrific crime."

Police sought out Ramsey, his defense attorney Lee Kindlon has argued, and encouraged him to give the statements to bolster a weak case.

On Friday, Kindlon described Ramsey as essentially "hoping to please the cops."

"But, at the end of the day, we couldn't get around the fact that he testified a number of times to the grand jury, each time to something very different," Kindlon said.

He said his client intends to apologize "for putting the family and everybody through all this and he wants to make sure that the right people are brought to justice."

But, Kindlon said, Ramsey has no knowledge of who those people are.

The other two individuals now serving time for lying to the grand jury are Duell, who is Safyre's biological mother, and Leon, formerly of St. Johnsville.

Duell is serving more than 11 years for lying to the grand jury about the Butler scenario. She initially told the grand jury she accompanied Butler from Saratoga Springs to Schenectady and watched as Butler set the blaze. She later recanted that, saying she and Butler remained in Saratoga Springs that night and morning.

Charges against another person, Bryan Fish of Schenectady, remain pending. He is also accused of lying about the Butler scenario, though his counts focus on who supposedly drove him, Duell and Butler to Schenectady that morning.

Leon has been convicted of two perjury counts about a scenario unrelated to Butler. A federal jury found that he traveled to Schenectady that morning and sent threatening text messages in the days leading up to the fire to David Terry, the father killed in the blaze. The jury found that he lied when he denied both to the grand jury.

Evidence presented at his trial painted him as an obsessed ex-boyfriend who used an anonymous cellphone to send threatening messages to his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend, Terry. He also admitted to investigators later that he traveled to Schenectady that morning and even saw flames at the house. Leon maintains he did not set the fire.

The blaze killed Terry, 32, and three of 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.

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