Prosecutors say William Fitzgerald, 53, of Plymouth set the Feb. 19, 2010 blaze at the MSPCA’s 350 S. Huntington Ave. headquarters so he could pretend to be a hero by putting it out. He pleaded guilty on May 11 and was sentenced to four years of probation.
The late-night fire in a storage room did about $400,000 in damage and ruined historical files. A single firefighter suffered the blaze’s only injury, but about 200 animals and several staff members—some of them sleeping on break—were in the building.
At the court hearing, MSPCA spokesperson Brian Adams testified that Fitzgerald created an “atmosphere of fear” and damaged the staff’s trust, according to a DA’s Office press release.
“Bill Fitzgerald had taken our family and slowly terrorized it from the inside,” Adams testified.
The MSPCA suffered a similar storage-room blaze in 2008 that was ruled accidental. After Fitzgerald’s arrest for the 2010 fire, Boston Fire Department (BFD) arson investigators were taking a second look at that fire, as the Gazette reported at the time.
Fitzgerald is not facing charges in any other case, according to the DA’s Office. BFD did not respond to a Gazette request for an update on the 2008 case, and Adams told the Gazette that the MSPCA never heard back from investigators.
Along with probation, Fitzgerald was ordered to pay the MSPCA more than $32,000 in restitution and unemployment benefit reimbursements; stay away from all MSPCA locations and employees; perform 100 hours of community service; and undergo mental health treatment if medically necessary.