BROCKTON — A resident of Middleborough charged with setting fire to a building in West Bridgewater was ordered held without bail Thursday, as authorities continued to investigate whether he set fire to at least 24 other unoccupied or abandoned buildings south of Boston since September.
During a two-day dangerousness hearing in Brockton District Court to evaluate whether Mark Sargent and co-defendant Jean Marie Louis should be held without bail, prosecutors portrayed Sargent as being so focused on causing fiery destruction that he could not stop even when he knew officials were closing in on him.
Eric Drury, a Plymouth County prosecutor, said during the hearing that Sargent knew police suspected him in the arsons because they had questioned him twice before Jan. 30, the day he and Louis were arrested moments after the West Bridgewater arson.
“He still comes out and does this,” Drury said. “It shows how extremely dangerous and volatile this is.
“He still can’t help himself, still goes out and does this, despite being on the radar. All this adds up to an extreme danger to the community.”
A building under construction at 457 South Main St. in West Bridgewater had minor damage Jan. 30. A Duraflame fire-starting log was found at the base of a wall that had been splashed with an accelerant, officials said.
Sargent, 45, lives with Louis’s mother, and the couple have a younger child. Louis lives at the same address.
Judge Cathy Campbell agreed with Drury’s argument and ordered Sargent, 58, back to the Plymouth House of Corrections to await a probable cause hearing Feb. 26.
But Campbell did allow $10,000 cash bail for Louis, 23, and ordered him to submit to GPS monitoring and an 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew if he posts bail. It was unclear whether Louis would make bail.
Campbell said that not enough evidence was presented to show that Louis presented a danger to the community.
Jennifer Sunderland, Louis’s attorney, said her client does not fit the profile of an arsonist.
“He’s just an ordinary guy who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time,” she said.
Louis is also being investigated for possible connections to the other fires.
Michael Peters, a State Police arson investigator returned to the witness stand Thursday to complete his testimony . He said a GPS tracking device on Sargent’s Subaru Outback indicated that it stopped at the West Bridgewater building before the fire broke out there.
The device also indicated that the vehicle drove by the building a total of eight times, both before and after the blaze.
Sargent was stopped in the area a short time after the fire was reported. Louis was in the passenger’s seat, and police said he reeked of gasoline.
Authorities had secured a warrant allowing them to use the GPS device. A Raynham police detective went to Sargent’s home in Middleborough Dec. 22 and placed the device on his Toyota Highlander. Sargent, a wholesale car dealer, exchanged the Highlander for a Subaru Outback in early January, and authorities placed the GPS on the Subaru.
Jason Howard, who is representing Sargent, said authorities had no eyewitnesses or evidence linking his client to the Jan. 30 arson or any of the other cases.
Howard said of the GPS tracking: “It’s all beeps and dots on a map. I suggest it’s lazy. They’ve been beating their chests on how amazing this technology is. I suggest it’s lazy.”
Howard said that during the time that authorities surreptitiously tracked the Toyota Highlander and Subaru Outback, they did it only by looking at a computer, rather than actually following the vehicles.
After the hearing, Howard expressed disappointment with Campbell’s decision.
“I don’t feel to date that what’s been testified to during the hearing or what has been relayed to the media has been supported by sufficient or credible evidence,” he said. “I’m anxious to see what discovery the government will provide, because nothing has been provided so far.
“What he is accused of doesn’t fit the character of this gentleman,” Howard said, standing in front of a lectern and pointing at his client sitting several feet away.
“He trades on his reputation,” Howard said, referring to Sargent’s job as a wholesale car dealer.
Brian Ballou can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.