COURT NEWS: Arsonist Jamie Clemons Sentenced To Nine Years In Federal Slammer For Arson Of Coconut Charlies Bar
PASADENA, MD. – A man’s attempt to destroy evidence of him assaulting his girlfriend in the patio area of Coconut Charlie’s bar in Pasadena in 2017 by torching the bar with Molotov Cocktails has earned him nine long years in the federal prison system.
On October 29, 2021, U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett sentenced Jamie Nelson Earl Clemons, 36 (DOB 12/16/1984) of 9243 Fort Smallwood Road, Pasadena, Maryland, to nine years in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for malicious destruction of a property by fire, in connection with the fire on July 28, 2017, at Coconut Charlie’s, a bar in Pasadena.
A Chance Bar Owner Will Recover Some of Over Half Million in Damages from Arsonist
Judge Bennett also ordered Clemons to pay restitution in the amount of $560,346.26. As a result of the arson, Coconut Charlie’s sustained over $500,000 in damage; the building was razed, and the business was forced to permanently close.
Clemons owns a residential property located at 7723 Ford Drive, Pasadena, Md., valued on Maryland tax records at $285,000. Clemons bought the property in 2008 and could be seized by the owner of the bar to partially compensate for the loss. Another property was sold at auction in 2021 which was listed as an address for Clemons in Maryland court records.
“This defendant not only endangered our brave firefighters who responded to the arson that he set, he caused devastating damage to a longtime Maryland business, forcing it to close,” said U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron. “The fire arsons often cause are indiscriminate in the lives and property they put in jeopardy. Arsons are also often difficult crimes to uncover and prove in court, and I am grateful to our investigative and prosecution teams for their dedication and persistence.”
According to the indictment and the government’s plea letter, on July 28, 2017, Clemons maliciously damaged and destroyed by fire a bar known as Coconut Charlie’s, located in the 9100 block of Fort Smallwood Road in Pasadena, in order to conceal evidence of an assault he had committed there on July 22, 2017.
As detailed in the statement of facts filed as part of the government’s plea letter, on July 22, 2017, at approximately 1:00 a.m., Clemons assaulted his girlfriend on the patio area of Coconut Charlie’s. An Anne Arundel County Police officer witnessed the assault and it was also captured on Coconut Charlie’s video surveillance system. As a result, Clemons was charged with second-degree assault and theft of less than $100 in the District Court for Anne Arundel County, and was served with a summons for the case on July 27, 2017.
Clemons admitted that in the early morning hours of July 28, 2017, he assembled multiple incendiary devices akin to Molotov cocktails, then lit the wicks for the devices on fire, and threw them at the exterior of Coconut Charlie’s in an attempt to burn the structure and destroy the video surveillance system, which had captured his assault on his girlfriend the week prior.
Due to the size of the fire, several agencies responded in an attempt to control and extinguish the fire, and a firefighter sustained injuries due to the force of a Backdraft that caused him to fall off a ladder. A fire scene examination was conducted, and the area of origin of the fire was determined to be the west exterior of the restaurant. Investigators reviewed the exterior camera footage from the video recording system, which remained operational after the fire, and were able to observe multiple flashes of light (at least three), followed by a sustained fire on the west exterior of the structure.
Charred melted plastic cups, which had been filled with gasoline, and a burnt cloth used as a wick material were located on the roof and exterior grounds of the building, and most were found to contain the presence of gasoline. Clemons admitted that he set the wicks on fire prior to throwing the devices on the roof.
An accelerant detection K-9 dog also alerted to the presence of gasoline on the west side of the exterior just on the other side of the fence surrounding Coconut Charlie’s. This is the area where Clemons launched the devices at Coconut Charlie’s. A short distance away, along the north side of the exterior of the property fence line, a glove was found which tested positive for the presence of an ignitable liquid and contained Clemons’ DNA.
Held without Bail
Clemons filed several times for release from federal detention pending the outcome of his trial in Federal Court and twice he was denied.
From Court Documents filed on April 9, 2020:
A de novo review of the record reveals that Judge Gesner’s assessment of Defendant and her decision to order detention was clearly correct. The charged offense is a crime of violence involving the destruction of property by fire resulting in the injury of a firefighter. Evidence that a glove found near the scene of the fire bore Defendant’s DNA and contained gasoline weighs in favor of detention.
As the Government proffered in its earlier submissions, the pre-plea criminal history report’s assignment of a Criminal History Category of VI—the highest possible under the Sentencing Guidelines—also weighs in favor of detention.
The Defendant does not challenge any of these factual determinations in the present appeal. Instead, he seeks release exclusively based on the potential spread of COVID-19 in the Correctional Treatment Facility in Washington, D.C., where he is currently in detention. In prior submissions, Defendant has suggested that his health conditions make him uniquely susceptible to the illness. (ECF No. 49 at 3 n.1.) The “physical and mental condition” of a Defendant is one factor this Court may consider when determining whether detention is appropriate. 18 U.S.C. § 3142(g)(3)(A).
This Court is aware of the dangers COVID-19 poses to the prison population. As Chief Magistrate Judge Gesner indicated, however, concerns about the effects of COVID-19 do not warrant release from detention in this case, especially considering the Government’s representations concerning the precautionary measures taken by the Department of Corrections to ensure the containment of COVID-19 within the Correctional Treatment Facility. (ECF No. 45 at 6-10.)
Text Messages Told the Story
On November 30, 2017, a federal search warrant was obtained for Clemons’ text messages on his cell phone. The contents of those messages revealed that after the assault and in the days leading up to the fire, Clemons sent multiple text messages expressing concern as to whether police would obtain the video surveillance of the assault, and what the video had captured.
Criminal Convictions Date to 2004
The Anne Arundel County States Attorney brought assault charges on November 17, 2017, in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court against Clemons for the attack on his girlfriend. Clemons entered a guilty plea on May 2, 2018, and was sentenced to three years in prison, all of which was suspended due to the pending federal charges. Pasadena attorney David Mabrey represented Clemons on the state charges.
Jamie Nelson Earl Clemons entered a guilty plea on March 3, 2016, in Worcester County District Court in Snow Hill, Md, to charges of operating a vessel while impaired filed by Maryland Natural Resources Officer Bunting in 2015. Clemons was given a sentence of Probation Before Judgement and fined $400.00.
Clemons was found guilty of felony theft in Anne Arundel Circuit Court on July 16, 2018, and sentenced to one year in the Anne Arundel County Jail.
Charges of auto theft and property destruction were put on the Stet Docket in Anne Arundel County in 2004.