Arson Charges Dismissed Against Two NY Firefighters

Arson charges against two volunteer firefighters from the Central Islip Fire Department have been dismissed following a lengthy trial that raised a number of troubling question about how the case was investigated.

State Supreme Court Justice John Collins dismissed the charges against Stephen Hernandez and Weldon Drayton ending a trial that lasted nearly a month. The defense raised a number of troubling questions about how Det. Robert Berretta reached his conclusion that Hernandez and Drayton were involved.

Defense attorney Stephen Politi asked Berretta about the numerous people he interviewed about the case, stating: “The truth of the matter, sir, is that not one of the individuals gave you even a drop of information that Mr. Hernandez or Mr. Drayton were involved in any of these fires, correct” , to which Berretta replied “That is correct.”

Questions were also raised about video evidence that was never pursed, and the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses. One witness admitted dealing crack and being a member of a street gang. This led prosecutors to ask for the charges to be dismissed.

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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