Two '01s charged for setting fire in frat

by Rachel Osterman and Shevani Jaisingh | 6/21/01 5:00am

Two members of Theta Delta Chi fraternity received blank diplomas after being arrested and charged with reckless conduct for starting a fire within the fraternity house on the afternoon of June 6.

The fire was started by Richard Adams '01 and Robert Ozols '01 in Adams' room with lighter fluid, after which they put out the small blaze with an extinguisher, according to Ozols.

"The goal was never to burn anything or cause any damage. It was just to spray his room with an extinguisher," said Ozols in a telephone conversation from his home in Alabama. "It was a stupid prank and now we're paying the price."

Ozols said no alcohol was involved in the incident. The fire caused no structural damage, nor did any injuries occur.

Both Adams and Ozols were initially charged with arson after their arrest. They were released the night of the incident on a $2,000 personal recognizance bail, according to Hanover Police Chief Nick Giaccone.

Criminally, arson is a Class A felony, punishable by seven to 15 years in prison. At a court hearing the day after the fire, the charge against Adams and Ozols was reduced to reckless conduct, a Class A misdemeanor.

Ozols said College officials informed him and Adams, who was unavailable for comment, that the incident could possibly amount to their suspension.

However, the blank diplomas that they received mean only that their disciplinary case is still pending. Punishments could range from a "slap on the wrist, to reprimand, to suspensions to separation" from the College, said Undergraduate Judicial Affairs Officer Marsha Kelly.

The hearing, the type of which has not yet been determined, will likely take place this summer.

Adams and Ozols have a court hearing set for July 24. Ozols said his lawyer is working on getting the charges dropped.

If convicted of reckless conduct, Adams and Ozols could face up to a $2,000 fine and up to a year in prison.

Spring term Theta Delt President Doug Heitner '02 was on campus during the incident, but was not in the house when it happened. "When I returned, I just saw police outside. I wasn't around," he said of the fire.

He said that the fire was not created through the auspices of the house, and was an act only of the individuals involved. It was not done as a form of hazing or because of peer pressure, he said.

Both Adams and Ozols were subject to internal discipline, however. Paul Schmitt '03, Theta Delt's summer president, declined to comment on exactly what disciplinary action was taken and how serious that punishment was.

Adams majored in computer science modified with economics. He was a Theta Delt social chair and a member of the Baptist Student Union.

Ozols graduated with a major in history. In addition to being a member of Theta Delt, he played rugby and participated in Griffen, one of the College's secret societies.

The difference between a felony and a misdemeanor in the state of New Hampshire is that felony sentences must be served in state prisons while misdemeanors, crimes of lesser degree, must be served in county jails, according to Giaccone.

"The stigma of a felony is greater than that of a misdemeanor," he added.

Assistant Dean of Residential Life Cassie Barnhardt said that, for the time being, the College is not taking any action against the fraternity as a whole.