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Man pleads for leniency after admitting arson for hire

A man who admitted “arson by hire” and potentially faces years behind bars pleaded in court yesterday not to be jailed for his parents’ sake.

Calvin Trott, 51, of Smith’s, pleaded guilty in March to arson and wilful damage after setting fire to a car and garage on February 28, 2020, at a Smith’s home, causing almost $20,000 in damage.

Supreme Court heard Trott had been paid to set the fire, with the victim telling police he had run into problems in recent years from enemies in the area.

Puisne Judge Shade Subair Williams was told the complainant, Philando Hill, of Fielders Lane, had set off just after 12.30pm on the day of the fire to take his son to school.

The complainant’s 74-year-old mother, who was ill, remained alone on the property.

Shortly thereafter, the complainant got a call from a friend informing him his car, parked in his yard, was ablaze.

When he called his distressed mother at home, she was only able to reply: “He’s pouring gas”.

Mr Hill returned to find firefighters battling the flames, which had spread to his garage.

The car was “written off” and the garage’s contents destroyed, including a $10,000 jacuzzi and six mountain bikes. Damages totalled $19,300.

Home security cameras showed a man entering the property just before 1pm, carrying a red gas container in a bag, and throwing a burning mass of paper onto the car.

The complainant later told police he had no idea who the intruder was.

But he described “a negative history” with an area family that had been the subject of police complaints.

He also said friends who had viewed the home security footage identified the man as “Cal”, a security guard at a parish liquor store.

Police found CCTV of the suspect walking on nearby Paradise Lane, and identified a construction firm from his hoody top.

The company head identified Trott from the footage as one of his employees.

Police recovered the gasoline container from behind a wall on Paradise Lane.

Trott, arrested on March 6, opted to speak to police the following day while still in custody.

He told officers: “I don’t know his name, but someone from his neighbourhood came up my job and showed me where his house is and gave me a couple hundred dollars, bought the gas for me, and I did it.”

Trott said he had been at his part-time liquor store job on the morning of the offence, drinking alcohol.

He said the taxi driver who allegedly asked for the arson approached him at the store, where they discussed “doing the job”.

He said the man then took him to a gas station, bought the gasoline, and dropped him off at Fielders Lane, where Trott admitted lighting the fire.

Trott said he was paid $300, and threw away the gas container on Paradise Lane.

Security footage from various locations appeared to confirm Trott’s account.

Cindy Clarke, the Director of Public Prosecutions, noted Trott had a string of previous convictions from 1987 to 2000, including one with a 22-year prison term for which Trott was released in 2015.

She said there was “no evidence he embarked on this for anything other than personal financial gain – this is an arson for hire”.

Ms Clarke called for two to four years’ imprisonment for arson and six months behind bars for wilful damage, with immediate incarceration.

Auralee Cassady, Trott’s lawyer, highlighted his deep remorse and diagnosed alcohol addiction, as well as his early guilty plea.

The court heard a character reference from the Reverend Gavin Tyte of St Mark’s Church, Smith’s, where Trott and his family lived on church property.

Ms Cassady added that Trott, a landscaper, financially supported his elderly parents and cared for his sick father.

She called for 18 months to two years’ imprisonment on the count of arson, with six months for wilful damage.

Trott, in tears, told the court he was “ashamed and embarrassed”.

“I am accountable and responsible,” he said. “I just can’t afford to go to jail – my parents are really sick and I made my mom more sick.”

Questioned by Mrs Justice Subair Williams, he admitted to still drinking, but said it was “only a beer or two”.

Begging for another chance, he said: “I don’t want to leave my parents like that.

“I just don’t want to go to jail – it will destroy me.”

Mrs Justice Subair Williams set a date for next week to pass sentence.

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