Convictions upheld in Gloversville arson case
ALBANY All three people convicted in a 2004 conspiracy to burn down a Gloversville apartment house and collect more than $200,000 in insurance money have now had their convictions upheld by an appeals court.
The last of the three was Jeffrey Alnutt. His wait ended Thursday, with a decision issued by the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court.
Alnutt was also later convicted of murder in a 2007 arson fire that resulted the death of his tenant. The status of the appeal in the murder case, which is separate, was unclear Thursday.
Alnutt, now 59, was convicted in 2009, five years after the Jan. 7, 2004, fire. Two other individuals were convicted of related charges connected to the blaze, which consumed an apartment house.
No one was hurt in the fire and investigators initially found it to be accidental. The case, though, was reopened and one of the men who claimed involvement was granted immunity from prosecution.
Alnutt was accused in testimony of spreading wood grain alcohol around the three-unit building on Steele Avenue, then igniting it with a lit roll of paper towels.
The scheme was then backed up by Aubrey Pagan, Alnutt’s daughter, who told investigators she’d left oil burning on the stove. She and her husband, Victor Pagan, both 25 at the time of trial, were also convicted on related charges.
The convictions of the Pagans and Alnutt have now been upheld.
Alnutt was sentenced to five to 15 years in prison for his role in the 2004 fire. Aubrey Pagan received one to three years while Victor Pagan got 1.3 to four years.
Alnutt argued that prosecutors did not sufficiently corroborate the co-conspirator’s testimony. The Appellate Division, though, listed multiple pieces of evidence that supported the man’s testimony.
Alnutt also argued that two prior convictions, which were allowed to be referenced on a limited basis, were prejudicial; that testimony from his former wife shouldn’t have been admitted; that testimony concerning a codefendant prejudiced him; and that his speedy trial rights were violated.
The Appellate Division rejected each claim. The justices did find that Alnutt should have been allowed to call a detective to the stand, but they found the testimony would have been cumulative of other evidence and was not prejudicial.
Also, they said, Alnutt’s sentence was not harsh or excessive.
“Given his criminal history and complete lack of remorse for, among other things, involving his daughter and son-in-law in criminal activity for his own financial gain, we find no abuse of discretion or extraordinary circumstances warranting modification,” the justices wrote.
Aubrey Pagan’s appeal was rejected in September 2011, while her husband’s was rejected in July 2012. All three were convicted in December 2009.
Alnutt went on trial again in 2010, accused of setting afire a building he owned in December 2007 to get an insurance payout. A 39-year-old tenant, Debra Morris, died in the blaze.
The jury in that case, which was not told of the conviction in the 2004 blaze, also convicted Alnutt in the 2007 fatal fire. Alnutt, who maintained his innocence, was sentenced in that case to 25 years to life in state prison.