DAs watch arson case closely

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 10, 2006

The confessions and arrests of Benjamin Nathan Moseley, Russell Lee DeBush Jr. and Matthew Lee Cloyd brought an end to the mystery of February’s church fires in Bibb, Greene and Sumter Counties.

But for prosecuting attorneys, it is just the beginning. Seventeenth Circuit District Attorney Greg Griggers, whose area includes Sumter and Greene Counties and Fourth Circuit District Attorney Michael Jackson, whose area includes Bibb County, both said they plan to do whatever is asked of them the help.

First and foremost, Griggers said, they were just happy to have the suspects in custody.

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“Obviously we are very pleased with the arrests that were made Wednesday,” Griggers said. “We certainly applaud the efforts that were made by the ATF and FBI and state law enforcement officers who broke the case. At this point, we are working in conjunction with the U.S. attorney’s office.”

Local district attorneys and federal prosecutors held a meeting Wednesday to discuss their plan of action. As it stands, the case will likely remain federal. Both attorneys said they are ready to help with the case, or take the reigns if a problem arises with federal proceedings.

“My primary concern is and has to be Greene and Sumter Counties in this case,” Griggers said. “Whatever I think is best for them and for us is what I will ultimately have to do.”

Jackson also said he will be ready if this becomes a state case.

“If there is a problem with the federal proceedings we will pursue state cases,” Jackson said. “We will work with them and if something happens with the federal case, we will move forward with the state. We want these guys sent off for a long time.”

For now, Griggers said, they will wait and see how things proceed on the federal level.

“We are basically just waiting to see where that gets us,” Griggers said. “If there should be a problem with the federal charges, then we are ready to take charge of it.”

Sentences in state court would be consistent with sentences the three would get in federal court, but because of the actions of the board of pardons and paroles in Alabama, Griggers said, they would likely end up serving less time on state sentences than with federal.

As the case proceeds, Griggers said, they should get a better idea of where they stand.

“I think the course of the next month or so, we should know whether or not federal charges can successfully be brought,” Griggers said. “If it doesn’t work out, we will get busy doing what we need to do to be sure they are prosecuted.”

The current plan, it to continue with what has worked so far, Griggers said.

“I’m not going to work outside the group at this point,” Griggers said. “That is what got these cases resolved. It was state and federal agencies working together and I certainly don’t want to be the one to mess that up.”