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Former mail room worker pleads guilty in 2016 Daily Gazette arson in Schenectady

Former mail room worker pleads guilty in 2016 Daily Gazette arson in Schenectady

Former mail room worker pleads guilty in 2016 Daily Gazette arson in Schenectady
Schenectady firefighters at the Daily Gazette in 2016; Inset: Defendant Ebony Polite speaks at YouthBuild event
Photographer: Gazette photos

SCHENECTADY - A former mail room worker at The Daily Gazette pleaded guilty Thursday in connection with the 2016 arson at the newspaper's offices that caused more than $1.1 million in damages.

Ebony Polite, 29, appeared in court Thursday morning and pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree attempted arson, a felony.

In return for her plea, she is to be sentenced next month to one year, eight months to five years in state prison, attorneys said.

Polite was arrested May 10, two days after the three-year anniversary of the early-morning May 8, 2016, fire that originated in the ground floor mail room and press room. Polite began in the mail room in October 2014 and left about three weeks prior to the fire.

Authorities said it was deliberately set in three locations: Uniforms hanging on a wall, a towel- and mop-filled bin and a stack of newspapers. Despite the damages, no one was hurt.

Polite was originally charged with second-degree arson and third-degree burglary, along with criminal mischief.

Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney said Thursday his office arrived at the plea after weighing a number of factors, including the age of the case, Polite's forthrightness with investigators and what she has done since.

Once investigators questioned her this year, she quickly admitted her wrongdoing, Carney said. That admission essentially solved the case, he said.

In the three years since the fire, she also did things to her credit, Carney said. She spoke at a YouthBuild event just over a week before her arrest where she told of working on the organization's housing project and told of how the organization had helped her, something Carney noted.

But the fire also did a lot of damage and there needed to be prison to deter others, Carney said.

"We had to recognize the extent of the damage that was done and balance that against those other things," Carney said. 

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Polite was represented by Schenectady County Public Defender Stephen Signore. He called the resolution later Thursday a "very, very fair disposition."

John DeAugustine, president and publisher of The Daily Gazette, said Thursday that the paper is happy the case is now resolved and the incident is in the past. He also praised the investigative work that led to Thursday's resolution.

"The police and fire investigators did an outstanding job staying focused on this from the day it happened," DeAugustine said.

Polite is to be sentenced Oct. 31.

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