9/11, Crime, Drinking, Screw-Ups, Sentencing Law

Harvard Law Grad Turned 9/11 Chapel Arsonist Pleads Guilty

Say Cheese!

This year Sidley Austin gave out very good, but not ridiculously good, associate bonuses. Alas, Brian Schroeder was not there to enjoy them.

As you may recall, Schroeder is the 27-year-old Harvard Law School graduate who set fire to a memorial housing the remains of unidentified 9/11 victims, on Halloween 2009. Schroeder then did the right thing and turned himself in to the authorities. Shortly thereafter, Sidley — where Schroeder was headed, after a deferral to do public interest work — rescinded his job offer.

Yesterday afternoon, Schroeder pleaded guilty to criminal charges in connection with the fire he set (more specifically, charges of burglary, criminal mischief and cemetery desecration). He accepted full responsibility for his actions and apologized for them.

What led the handsome Harvard grad — described by ATL sources as “a good guy” and “really smart,” albeit “a little strange” — to set the blaze? One word: alcohol. Schroeder testified that he couldn’t even remember setting the fire, but admitted to a hard-partying Halloween: “I drank many alcoholic beverages.”

So what kind of sentence is Brian Schroeder getting? One that isn’t pleasing prosecutors….

Was it the skillful advocacy of his defense counsel, the power of a Harvard Law degree, or Schroeder’s past association with several top law firms (he summered at pre-merger LeBoeuf and pre-dissolution Heller, in addition to Sidley)? It’s not clear.

But regardless of the cause, State Supreme Court Justice Rena Uviller went easy on Brian Schroeder — over the objections of prosecutors, who sought at least a year in jail. She’s requiring Schroeder to do 100 hours of community service and pay restitution (which should be hefty, since the fire caused $67,000 in damage; Schroeder should have waited until he was at Sidley before starting it).

Technically Justice Uviller imposed a deferred sentence. This means Schroeder is still under the jurisdiction of the court — and could get a custodial sentence if he flakes out on the community service, restitution, or other requirements.

One relative of a 9/11 victim expressed satisfaction with the outcome, according to the AP:

“I think that he did the right thing by accepting responsibility for what he did,” said Charles Wolf, whose wife, Katherine, died at the World Trade Center. Wolf has visited Memorial Park at times.

He didn’t feel Schroeder deserved jail.

“Why ruin someone’s life? He made a mistake,” Wolf said.

Agreed. We all make mistakes, and it’s nice to see a jurist who recognizes human fallibility.

Happy Holidays, Brian. Avoiding time in the clink is surely the best holiday gift you’ve ever received.

Brian Schroeder, Harvard Law Grad, Pleads Guilty In 9/11 Remains Tent Fire [Associated Press via Huffington Post]
Harvard grad pleads guilty to torching 9/11 memorial while in drunken stupor, judge promises no jail [New York Daily News via Gawker]

Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Brian Schroeder

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