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Accused day care arsonist given three weeks to reconsider plea

by Lisa Brown

 BRIDGEWATER - A man accused of burning down a day care when it was under construction in Bridgewater a year ago has been given three weeks to decide if he's guilty or not guilty.

 Thirty-three-year-old Robert James Smith was scheduled to be sentenced on a single count of arson June 18 in Bridgewater provincial court. Instead, defence lawyer Franceen Romney asked for permission to withdraw from the case and an adjournment so her former client can find new counsel.

 The case had been delayed two weeks earlier because of a last-minute pre-sentence report. At that time, Judge Anne Crawford suggested Mr. Smith was denying responsibility for the crime, despite his April guilty plea.

 On June 18, the judge warned the Bridgewater resident that he needs to make up his mind.

 "You know what the problem is with your pre-sentence report," she said. "I'll set the matter over for three weeks, but if your position has not changed then I'll be setting your guilty plea aside and setting the matter down for trial."

 Mr. Smith will be back in court July 9.

 The case involves a fire which razed the Small World Learning Centre on York Street when it was under construction on May 22, 2007.

 The second Bridgewater man charged in connection with the fire, 40-year-old Kevin Earl Croft, is scheduled to go to trial on an arson allegation July 8.



posted on 06/24/08
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