Student Arson Case Moves to the Inactive Docket

edited.KentCourthouse_MacKenzieBrady (1)By Abby Wargo


After two rescheduled court dates, the case of a Washington College student who was accused of arson threat was moved to the inactive docket. The case was moved July 11, according to court records.

Steven McDonnell, 22, of New York, was charged in December 2017 after he allegedly threatened to set another student’s home on fire.

The Elm is not identifying the complainants.

The inactive docket requires that the defendant meets the conditions of receiving a stet, and both parties have to agree with the decision. After one year, the case can be rescheduled provided there is a good reason.

“It’s an agreement to not prosecute, so [McDonnell] has to do everything they tell him. They can recall the case at any time and re-try him,” said Director of Public Safety Brandon McFayden.

In a criminal case where all charges are placed on stet, the defendant could receive expungement; meaning the legal record of an arrest or criminal conviction is sealed from the public, according to a July 18 article in the Kent County News.

As a condition of the stet agreement, McDonnell cannot return to campus, McFayden said.

The trial date was delayed twice; once in March because it was transferred from district to circuit court, and once in January to align with the arrival of a visiting judge. Judge John E. Nunn III had recused himself from the case after presiding over three previous rulings involving McDonnell, according to a Jan. 24 article in the Kent County News.

In December 2017, Nunn granted peace orders to two WC professors after McDonnell had allegedly made threats against them. McDonnell was prohibited from contacting the professors and their families and was barred from going to the College, the professors’ homes, and the school of one of the professor’s children for six months.

According to court records, one of the professors had said McDonnell threatened her and her children while talking to other WC students.

McDonnell was arrested around midnight on Tuesday, Dec. 5 after three students reported him to Public Safety.

Former Director of Public Safety Gerald Roderick said at the time, “The information coming from these students involved very serious threats to the WC community. We mobilized a group of resources to start dealing with the situation that was unfolding.”

Around 9 p.m. on Dec. 5, a warrant was issued for McDonnell’s arrest by the Chestertown Police Department after the threats were rendered credible, Roderick said at the time.

The Chestertown police and Public Safety then put together a safety plan for the campus and began searching for McDonnell. His car was found adjacent to campus at 11:30 p.m., and at 11:45 p.m., Chestertown officers and Public Safety located McDonnell inside Miller Library and took him into custody. He was released from custody the following day after posting $500 cash bond. The maximum penalty for threat of arson is 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

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