Prison Term in Fire that Threatened Sleeping Homeless Men

BOSTON, Sept. 8, 2017— An Arlington man was sentenced to prison today after his conviction for starting a fire near an alcove where two homeless men were sleeping, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said.

At the conclusion of a jury-waived trial yesterday, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Peter Lauriat found MATTHEW CODY (D.O.B. 1/19/86) guilty of two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon but acquitted him of arson and attempted murder.  Prosecutors had indicted Cody for arson and attempted murder, as well; Lauriat acquitted Cody of those charges.

Lauriat today sentenced Cody to 18 to 20 months in state prison followed by three years of probation, during which time Cody must undergo a mental health evaluation and drug and alcohol treatment.  Assistant District Attorney David McGowan, the DA’s arson point prosecutor, had requested a term of up to three years in prison.

05During the course of the one-day trial, McGowan introduced evidence and testimony to prove that Cody was leaving his job at a West Street restaurant at approximately 11:00 p.m. on Oct. 8, 2015, when he passed a West Street building where two men were sleeping inside the alcove.  A security camera captured Cody’s actions as he retrieved a hardcover book from a nearby recycling bin and lit it on fire next to the slumbering men, prosecutors said.  He then walked to a nearby location within sight of the alcove and watched as the flames went out.

Cody can then be seen in security camera images as he set fire to the book a second time, pulled his hood up, and left the area.

This time, the fire spread to the building’s entry and to the cardboard on which the men were sleeping, prosecutors said.  Passersby and a man who smelled smoke in a nearby office extinguished it.

15Boston Police detectives viewed security camera footage from the area, which suggested the arsonist may have left a nearby restaurant immediately before setting the fire.  Cody was identified as an employee who had been working that night and was positively identified by coworkers who viewed images of the suspected arsonist. Members of Conley’s Forensic Audio/Video Image Analysis Unit “stitched” together video footage from several sources to show Cody’s presence at and around the scene, up to and including his repeated efforts to set the fire.

“Crimes like this defy explanation,” Conley said. “The victims did nothing to provoke it and they were particularly vulnerable as they slept on the street. That fact resonated for all of us, and I’m proud of our trial team for pursuing justice on their behalf. If the defendant thought no one would care about two homeless men, he was mistaken.  Prosecutors, victim advocates, police detectives, firefighters, and civilian witnesses alike all stood up and spoke out for them.”

Kerry Kolditz was the DA’s assigned victim-witness advocate.  Cody was represented by Andrew Stockwell-Alpert.

 

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All defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.