PASADENA — A Pasadena man pleaded guilty to setting Coconut Charlie’s on fire in 2017 in hopes of destroying surveillance video that captured him assaulting his girlfriend.
36-year-old Jamie Clemons pleaded guilty to malicious destruction of a property by fire, in connection with the fire on July 28, 2017, at Coconut Charlie’s.
As a result of the arson, Coconut Charlie’s sustained over $500,000 in damage. The building was razed and the business was forced to permanently close.
According to the indictment and the government’s plea letter, on July 28, 2017, Clemons maliciously damaged and destroyed by fire a bar known as Coconut Charlie’s in Pasadena in order to conceal evidence of an assault he committed there on July 22, 2017.
Clemons assaulted his girlfriend on the patio area of Coconut Charlie’s. An Anne Arundel County Police officer witnessed the assault and it was also captured on Coconut Charlie’s video surveillance system.
As a result, Clemons was charged with second degree assault and theft of less than $100 in the District Court for Anne Arundel County, and was served with a summons for the case on July 27, 2017.
Clemons admitted that in the early morning hours of July 28, 2017, he assembled multiple incendiary devices akin to Molotov cocktails, then lit the wicks for the devices on fire, and threw them at the exterior of Coconut Charlie’s in an attempt to burn the structure and destroy the video surveillance system.
Due to the size of the fire, several agencies responded in an attempt to control and extinguish the fire, and a firefighter sustained injuries due to the force of a backdraft that caused him to fall off a ladder.
A fire scene examination was conducted, and the area of origin of the fire was determined to be the west exterior of the restaurant.
Investigators reviewed the exterior camera footage from the video recording system, which remained operational after the fire, and were able to observe multiple flashes of light (at least three), followed by a sustained fire on the west exterior of the building.
Charred melted plastic cups, which had been filled with gasoline, and a burnt cloth used as a wick material were located on the roof and exterior grounds of the building, and most were found to contain the presence of gasoline.
Clemons admitted that he set the wicks on fire prior to throwing the devices on the roof.
An accelerant detection K9 also alerted to the presence of gasoline on the west side of the exterior just on the other side of the fence surrounding Coconut Charlie’s.
This is the area where Clemons threw the devices at Coconut Charlie’s. A short distance away, along the north side of the exterior of the property fence line, a glove was found which tested positive for the presence of an ignitable liquid and contained Clemons’ DNA.
On November 30, 2017, a federal search warrant was obtained for Clemons’ text messages on his cell phone.
The contents of those messages revealed that after the assault and in the days leading up to the fire, Clemons sent multiple text messages expressing concern as to whether police would obtain the video surveillance of the assault, and what the video had captured.
Clemons faces a mandatory minimum of five years in federal prison and a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.