East Texas grand jury charges man with arson after two Dogwood Estates pumps burned
A federal grand jury in Tyler issued an indictment this week charging an Athens man with arson in the Eastern District of Texas, Acting US Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei recently announced.
According to court documents, Brandon Blake Neeley, 19, of Athens, was arrested on October 5, 2020 as he tried to leave the scene of a fire at the No.2 Pump Building at Dogwood Estates Water Company . Four days earlier, on October 1, 2020, another building belonging to Dogwood Estates which housed the No.4 pump, had also been set on fire. Dogwood Estates Water Company serves over 400 homes in the Athens area. After the destruction of pump # 2 and pump # 4, Dogwood was forced to use a standby pump not designed to handle all customer demands. Customers were asked to limit their water consumption until the burnt-out pumps could be repaired or replaced. The two fires caused more than $ 200,000 in damage.
“The destruction of the Dogwood Estates pumps has threatened access to water for many Athens residents who depend on the pumping station to go about their daily business,” said Acting US Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei. “Protecting our nation’s critical infrastructure from criminals, vandals and saboteurs is a top priority for federal, state and local law enforcement, and these charges prove it.”
Neeley is charged with arson of property used in interstate commerce. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account US sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Locker is continuing the case.
An indictment is only an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a court.