Supreme Court ruling could affect arson case

February 17, 2012
By

The federal case against a man charged with one of the arson fires that plagued Jamaica Plain in 2005-2009 may be in trouble after a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Jose Baez, 38, of Dorchester was arrested in 2010 after investigators put a GPS device on his car without a warrant and tracked him to the area of an arson fire, the Department of Justice told the Gazette at the time. The Supreme Court ruled last month that such warrantless GPS tracking is unconstitutional.

A federal court will hold a March hearing on whether evidence in the case will be thrown out in light of the Supreme Court decision, according to Baez’s attorney, Michael Ruane.

“I don’t think that we would get [the case] dismissed entirely,” Ruane told the Gazette. But, he added, “If evidence is suppressed, it would take away a good chunk of the government’s case.”

He added that federal prosecutors have indicated that they are “going forward with whatever they have left,” whatever the court decides. Baez is scheduled to go to trial in June.

The U.S. Department of Justice did not respond to Gazette questions about the case.

JP was hit with a string of eight residential and business arsons in 2005-2009. Baez was charged with one of them—the 2009 torching of JP Auto Body with burning car tires. He also was charged with burning a Roslindale home and a Kenmore Square business. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives alleges that Baez was motivated by revenge for personal disputes.

Best of JP 2014