Sunday, August 12, 2001

Charges filed in gasoline throwing

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — A man has been charged with assault and aggravated menacing for splashing gasoline on a security worker at the Columbus Pride Parade, where he burned a gay-pride flag.

        Charles Spingola, 45, of Newark, had already been charged with open burning, a fire-code violation and first-degree misdemeanor.

        City prosecutors added the other charges based on accusations by Andrea Critchet, a parade security volunteer who said Mr. Spingola doused her with gasoline before telling her she was going to burn in hell.

        It took prosecutors nearly two months to file the additional charges because they had to verify Ms. Critchet's account with witnesses, said Scott Varner, spokesman for the city attorney's office.

        Attorney Thomas Condit, who represents Mr. Spingola, said his client will plead innocent to the new charges.

        “Completely groundless. He didn't do it. Throwing gasoline on a lady? He absolutely denies that,” Mr. Condit said.

        Ms. Critchet told police she approached Mr. Spingola, a self-avowed street preacher, and Thomas R. Meyer, 47, also of Newark, during the June 23 parade and told them to stay away from participants. Mr. Spingola then splashed her with gasoline, she said.

        Paramedics treated her at the scene for a burning throat and tingling on her face, legs and arms.

        Mr. Spingola and Mr. Meyer reportedly then set fire to a gay-pride flag, the second time that day.

        Mr. Condit said he will file to have the open-burning charge dismissed on the grounds that Mr. Spingola's flag burning is free speech protected by the First Amendment.


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