Crime

Jury returns verdict for Bellefonte man accused of trying to set fire to county buildings

A Bellefonte man accused of throwing Molotovs on two Centre County buildings was found guilty of all charges Wednesday, the Centre County district attorney’s office said.

Nine women and three men deliberated for about two hours before convicting Dennis Hassinger of three felony counts of arson.

Hassinger, 49, is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 21.

Bellefonte police and the Centre County sheriff’s office reviewed video that showed Hassinger throw one Molotov on the sheriff’s building before he strolled down East High Street and threw another on the Centre County Courthouse in October.

In his opening statement Monday, Assistant Public Defender Patrick McAreavy said the video is “grainy and unclear” and argued the investigation “targeted” Hassinger from the beginning. He declined to comment Wednesday after the verdict was announced.

Deputy District Attorney Sean McGraw said Hassinger started the fires because of his hatred for the criminal justice system and law enforcement.

Hassinger was charged with two felony counts of arson of an unoccupied building, one felony count of arson of a historic resource — the courthouse was built in 1805 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 — and two felony count of reckless burning.

Bret Pallotto primarily reports on courts and crime for the Centre Daily Times. He grew up in Lewistown and graduated from Lock Haven University.
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