Grads facing arson charges

Jill Martin

BRYN MAWR – What began as a post-graduation celebration on May 22 ended in disaster when three University Class of 2002 graduates were arrested for burning furniture at the Bryn Mawr Courts.

Kenneth Dolan of Hamilton, N.J., Thomas Dugan of Beaver, Pa., and Brian Whipple of Glen Arm, Md. were arrested by the Lower Merion Police Department on charges of risking catastrophe, conspiracy, reckless endangerment and arson, which is considered a felony charge.

Neither Dolan nor Dugan could be reached for comment at press time.

According to authorities, there had been other fires at the Courts in the week preceding the incident resulting in the arrests of the three University graduates.

In these incidents, students had also been drinking and lighting furniture on fire with lighter fluid in the central open area of the complex.

These fires were comparable to the happenings of May 22 as well, which were caught on video camera by an onlooker.

Detective Greg Henry of the LMPD said, “These guys are all decent guys. They get good grades, and they’ve never been in trouble.”

“They were guys that were going to do something with their lives.”

He continued, “It was almost like a rite of passage thing … They had the mentality of this being their last chance to be crazy since they would soon have responsibilities.”

Lieutenant William J. Albany of the Lower Merion Police Department said, “We were young once too, but we don’t want people to make a mistake that could potentially ruin their lives.

“For example, with a felony charge, you cannot be accepted into the Bar [Association],” Albany said.

Henry added, “At the time, it probably seemed like a good idea to them, but what they didn’t realize was that 10 to 15 minutes of stupidity could cost them their future.

Of the incident and the subsequent arrest of the three graduates, Whipple, who is now employed as a consolidation insurance agent, said, “As far as the scenario goes, we had been drinking and made a bad decision.”

“Toward the end of the year, many of the seniors burned their furniture that they weren’t taking with them. It’s been a tradition for years, and actually happened a lot [at the end of last year].”

The case will be heard 180 days after the incident. According to Henry, the three former students could decide to plead guilty to the misdemeanors and drop the felony charge.

Albany said, “There have been strained relations between students and the community in the past.”

“The students should really think before they participate in pranks because what they see as a prank has far-reaching consequences for their lives,” he added.

Whipple agreed. “It’s stupid,” he said.

“Don’t do it. It’s tough on us since it’s been hanging over our heads. We made a stupid decision that cannot be justified,” he added.