By Patrick McCreless
The son of Alabama legislator Lea Fite, arrested in Cullman for arson earlier this year, was recently indicted on more arson charges.
Cullman County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Jerrod Heath Fite, 21, on Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008 on a Cullman County grand jury indictment for three counts of arson in the second degree.
“This is an ongoing investigation,” said Cullman County Assistant District Attorney John Bryant. “He was arrested on new charges.”
According to sheriff’s reports, investigators arrested Fite and Justin Craig Blanton, 20, of Cullman, in January at an apartment on College Drive in Hanceville. The arrests stemmed from a string of arsons that occurred in December 2007 in the Johnson’s Crossing area near Hanceville.
The trials of both defendants have been postponed several times this year. In late May, a Cullman County judge denied Fite and Blanton’s application for youthful offender status. Under Alabama law, anyone who allegedly committed a crime while he or she was between 18 and 20 years old has the right to request youthful offender status.
Being tried as a youthful offender is not the same as being tried as a juvenile. Only defendants under 18 years old can be tried as juveniles.
Unlike juveniles, youthful offenders are tried in adult court and if convicted, must serve time in an adult prison. However under youthful offender status, the maximum sentence is three years in prison, no matter what crime the defendant may have committed. In addition, after a youthful offender is released from prison, their criminal records are sealed.
Though Fite and Blanton’s names appear on the Nov. 3 Cullman circuit court docket, Bryant said he expects their trials to be delayed again.
“We won’t get to them,” Bryant said. “We’re still waiting on forensic evidence. But as soon as we get it in, we’ll go forward with it (trials).”
Both suspects were incarcerated at the Cullman County Detention Center but were released on two $60,000 bonds.
The defense attorneys for Fite and Blanton could not be reached for comment by deadline.
Arson in the second degree is a Class B felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
‰ Contact Patrick McCreless by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 734-2131 ext. 270.
By Patrick McCreless