Judge drops charges against firefighters in arson case

Posted: Updated:
RIVERHEAD -

Charges have been dropped against two former Central Islip firefighters who were accused of torching abandoned houses so they could be the first to respond.

State Supreme Court Justice John Collins dismissed the charges one month into the trial of Stephen Hernandez and Weldon Drayton. The judge had been critical of prosecutors for not turning over evidence that he said defense attorneys had the right to see. And defense attorneys complained that the testimony of several prosecution witnesses was inconsistent and contradicted each other.

It all ended with the extraordinary step of prosecutors asking for the charges to be dismissed and the judge agreeing.

Defense attorneys had asked for a mistrial, arguing that their clients were falsely accused of arson by other firefighters who themselves had run-ins with the law and were looking for leniency in their cases.

Charges against Hernandez will be formally dismissed in six months. The charges against Drayton were dismissed, effectively immediately.

Drayton is a Suffolk County police officer who was suspended after his arrest. He says he'll now try to get his job back. The 35-year-old Drayton also served in the Marines, doing two tours overseas.

Hernandez had been accepted into the FDNY. His lawyer says he expects Hernandez to begin his career as a city firefighter now that the case is behind him.

Read more:
DA: Suffolk officer committed arson to boost stature in fire department
Suffolk PD: 3 volunteer firefighters charged with arson

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