PLYMOUTH - A Cheshire man accused of starting a fire at the abandoned OZ Gedney factory could be spared prosecution through a first-time offender program.
Ryan Casner, 19, applied for Accelerated Rehabilitation during a hearing Wednesday in Bristol Superior Court. Should it be granted, he could be on a pretrial form of probation for up to two years - during which time he would be expected to avoid any new arrests and could be subject to other conditions.
Casner was granted a continuance for court officials to determine his eligibility for the program. Officials on Wednesday said he has pleaded guilty to burglary and other charges in cases being prosecuted in Waterbury Superior Court. Those pleas could disqualify him from using Accelerated Rehabilitation, officials said.
According to the warrant for Casner's arrest in the OZ Gedney fire, authorities believe he is a “spree arsonist,” having been charged in multiple other fires in the area that were intentionally set. In the Plymouth fire, he faces charges of third-degree arson, third-degree criminal mischief and second-degree breach of peace.
Those charges stem from the fire that destroyed the old OZ Gedney factory on March 16, 2017. Firefighters received multiple 911 calls about the blaze at about 10 p.m. and had to wait half an hour for the power to be cut before attacking the fire, as some power lines were too close to the building.
Casner became a suspect in the OZ Gedney fire when he was arrested by Bristol police on April 3, 2017, and accused of setting multiple city-owned garbage containers on fire on Shrub Road. Those charges are still pending in Waterbury Superior Court, where he has pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit third-degree criminal mischief.
Not long after Casner’s first arrest, detectives suspected he may have been responsible for the OZ Gedney fire and a blaze at Ross Auto Parts in Bristol, where 17 junk cars were burned on March 19, 2017. Casner has not been charged in the auto parts fire, but according to the warrant in the Plymouth blaze, he is the “primary suspect.”
During the investigation, police from multiple jurisdictions were able to get a video of Casner allegedly bragging to someone about his involvement in a number of area fires and a burglary.
Casner is also facing charges in connection with the theft of two dirt bikes in Wolcott and a number of pallets that were set ablaze outside a business in Meriden.
Justin Muszynski can be reached at 860-973-1809 or firstname.lastname@example.org.