Hereford House defendant rejected plea deals

The Kansas City Star on October 22, 2012 released the following:

“BY MARK MORRIS
The Kansas City Star

Kansas City restaurateur Rodney J. Anderson rejected three possible plea bargains before going to trial this morning on fraud and arson conspiracy charges in the Hereford House fire.

Federal prosecutors made the plea disclosures at an 8 a.m. hearing held by U.S. District Judge Greg Kays before jury selection began.

Anderson, who is on trial with Vincent Pisciotta and Mark A. Sorrentino, rejected two offers that would have had prosecutors recommending sentences of five years in prison, one with an agreement to cooperate with prosecutors and one without. The most recent offer, made last month, would have had a binding seven-year sentence with a cooperation agreement.

Anderson’s lawyer, J.R. Hobbs, confirmed that those were the terms of the offers.

Lawyers representing Pisciotta and Sorrentino said their clients were never interested in plea negotiations so no formal offers were ever made.

Jury selection was underway Monday morning, to be followed by opening statements from prosecutors and defense lawyers.

Anderson is accused of hiring Pisciotta and Sorrentino to burn his restaurant in Oct. 2008 so he could collect insurance money. Those funds, prosecutors have alleged, would have paid for renovations to make the Hereford House, once located at 2 E. 20th St., more competitive with new restaurants in the Power & Light District.

Anderson’s lawyer is expected to argue that his client’s ownership interest in the restaurant was too small for him to have expected any significant recovery from insurance funds.

Lawyers representing Pisciotta and Sorrentino confirmed in court Monday that their cases hinge on undermining the identification of their clients as the arsonists, who can be seen on surveillance video bringing containers of gasoline into the restaurant late the evening of Oct. 19, 2008.”

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