Arsonist who set fire that destroyed Savannah’s Code Enforcement Office sentenced to five years in federal prison | USAO-SDGA

SAVANNAH, GA:  A Chatham County man who admitted deliberately setting the May 3, 2020, fire that destroyed the city of Savannah’s Code Enforcement Office has been sentenced to federal prison.

Stephen Charles Setter, 19, of Savannah, was sentenced to 60 months in prison by U.S. District Court Judge R. Stan Baker after pleading guilty to one count of Arson, said David H. Estes, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. Judge Baker also ordered Setter to pay restitution totaling $1,277,647.66, and to serve three years of supervised release after completion of his prison term.

There is no parole in the federal system.

“By deliberately setting this fire, Stephen Setter senselessly destroyed a significant Savannah government building and as a result has well-earned his sentence,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Estes. “It’s fortunate that none of the Savannah firefighters were hurt while fighting this massive blaze.”

As described in court documents and testimony, Setter admitted starting the fire at the Code Enforcement Office at 1700 Drayton Street in downtown Savannah shortly after 3 a.m. on May 3, 2020. The fire quickly spread into the attic and roof of the building, causing damage estimated at nearly $1 million and rendering it a total loss.

Setter told investigators that he activated a fire alarm at the Landings marina that same night, requiring the Chatham County Fire Department to respond, and while the station was unoccupied he then stole a fire department radio so he could listen to fire department communications. 

“This is another example of how ATF has partnered with our state and local agencies to investigate the crime of arson,” said Lenwood S. Reeves, Resident Agent in Charge of the Savannah Field Office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “Not only does arson destroy millions of dollars’ worth of property each year, it endangers the lives of our first responders and the citizens of the community.”

“We are pleased with the outcome of this case,” said Fred Anderson, Chief Fire Investigator for the Savannah Fire Department. “This is a prime example of the benefit that comes from the strong relationship between the Savannah Fire Department and our federal partners at the ATF and U.S Attorney’s Office.”

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Savannah Fire Department Arson Unit, and prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tania D. Groover.

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