FISHKILL, N.Y. -- Following the news that the massive fire at the Gap Inc. warehouse center in Fishkill was intentionally set, a criminal defense lawyer said arson charges can be as serious as a murder charge, according to the Poughkeepsie Journal.
State police said a preliminary investigation by federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives experts concluded the Aug. 29, eight-alarm fire's source "was incendiary in nature" -- meaning it was intentionally set.
Peter Maroulis, a criminal defense attorney in Poughkeepsie, told the Journal there are five levels of arson charges, ranging from a misdemeanor fifth-degree charge to a felony first-degree charge, which is considered the same as first-degree murder, said the Poughkeepsie Journal.
Maroulis told the Journal that because people were in the building at the time of the fire, he believed the charge would be at least a second-degree arson, added the Poughkeepsie Journal.
Second-degree arson is considered a violent felony and can carry a penalty of five to 25 years in prison, said the Poughkeepsie Journal.
The ATF National Response Team, which has federal jurisdiction over fires involving interstate commerce, assisted the Dutchess County Fire Investigation Division, the state Office of Fire Prevention & Control and state police.
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