United States Attorneys for the District of Maryland Allen Loucks, for the District of Columbia Kenneth Wainstein, and for the Eastern District of Virginia Paul McNulty, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent-in-Charge Theresa Stoop announced that Thomas Sweatt, 50, of Washington, D.C., pleaded
guilty last week before U.S. District Court Judge Deborah Chasanow to criminal informations which charge Sweatt with various counts alleging possession of destructive devices; destruction of buildings by
fire resulting in personal injury; possession of destructive devices in furtherance of a crime of violence; and in the criminal information originally filed in the District of Columbia, first degree premeditated murder (felony murder) and second degree murder.
The criminal informations filed in the United States District Courts for the District of Columbia and the Eastern District of Virginia have been transferred to the District of Maryland.
Pursuant to the defendant’s guilty plea to two counts of possession of destructive devices in furtherance of a crime of violence, the Defendant faces a mandatory life sentence at his sentencing before Judge Chasanow on Sept. 12, 2005.
According to the agreed statement of facts presented to the court, beginning in February 2003 and continuing through December of 2004, Sweatt deliberately set a series of fires in Maryland, the
District of Columbia and Virginia, understanding that his actions would result in damage and injury to persons and property.
The Defendant reportedly set 45 residential fires using incendiary devices, the components of which were a one-gallon plastic jug; a plastic bag; and a cloth material used as a wick. Gasoline was utilized as an accelerant in the devices.
In addition to the residential fires, Sweatt also reportedly set four fires to vehicles parked at a parking lot located at 8th and I Streets, S.E.,
Washington, D.C., in February and March of 2003.
Investigators from the Serial Arson Task Force were able to identify Sweatt as the perpetrator of the arsons by, among other things, matching DNA samples recovered at various fire scenes. Upon his arrest on April 27, 2005, Sweatt reportedly admitted in a videotaped confession to Task Force Agents that he picked his targets at random, that he typically placed the device near a door because
it was more likely to burn at that location and that he was, at times, aware that persons were in the homes at which he set these devices on fire.
Loucks stated that “Today’s admission of guilt to setting 45
residential fires, for which he faces a life sentence, is a milestone in this two year long investigation. I hope today marks another step in the healing process for the victims and their families, and that
the citizens of our communities feel a sense of relief that the serial arsonist has been found, convicted and will spend the rest of his life behind bars.”
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