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What you need to know for 05/24/2017

Two plead guilty in Duanesburg truck arsons

Two plead guilty in Duanesburg truck arsons

Police said dispute was over alleged dumping
Two plead guilty in Duanesburg truck arsons
Two trucks were burned
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

Two men arrested last summer, accused of threatening a Duanesburg neighbor with illegal assault weapons and burning two of his trucks over dumping allegations, each admitted to an arson charge Friday, prosecutors said.

Kenneth Montgomery, 38,  of Duanesburg, and Ralph P. Olson, 46, of the town of Florida, each appeared in court Friday morning and admitted to third-degree arson, a felony, prosecutor Michael DeMatteo said.

They are to be sentenced in May. They face up to two to six years in state prison. The final term is to be determined by Judge Mark Blanchfield, DeMatteo said.

Police arrested the pair after they allegedly fired over the head of property owner Sidney Dawson and set two of Dawson's trucks on fire. The men, who police say had been drinking, suspected Dawson of illegally dumping on the property off Route 160 in Duanesburg, authorities said.

The pair visited Dawson to voice their concerns directly, bringing two assault weapons with them and threatening the man, police said. Dawson did not contact police.

They then returned at 10 p.m. with the assault weapons and some kind of fuel, police said. One of the men fired over Dawson's head and ordered him to the ground while the other suspect poured fuel onto the trucks and ignited them, police said. The men then fled.

State police received an anonymous call alerting them to shots fired and the trucks ablaze. The report prompted the state police to call in its Special Operations Response Team to clear the area and ensure no shooter remained on site before allowing firefighters in.

DeMatteo said the core of the case came down to the arson allegations.

"Based upon what the evidence was that we had in our county, this was the more substantial portion of the case," DeMatteo said.

State police said last summer that charges could also be filed in Montgomery County as they recovered the two AR-15 style, non-compliant assault weapons hidden at Olson's residence. They also recovered four other illegal handguns there, police said then. No charges have been filed there, Olson's attorney Karen Crandall said.

Both Crandall and Montgomery's attorney, Glen Brownell, described their clients are remorseful.

Crandall called Olson "the type of guy you'd be proud to say is your friend."

"Unfortunately, I think he and his co-defendant just got caught up in something that night," Crandall said. "Neither of them envisioned it turning into this."

She said she is investigating whether the judge would have the discretion to sentence Olson to probation.

Brownell called the case unfortunate, saying the men "did something incredibly stupid fueled by alcohol. It wouldn't happen again today, but, nevertheless, it happened."

"He's embarrassed," Brownell said.

Both Montgomery and Olson remain free pending sentencing.

Regarding the illegal dumping allegations, the state police said last summer they notified the DEC. Dawson had been fined twice before, in 2004 and 2007, over similar allegations. It was unclear Friday if anything came of the referral from last summer.

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