TYLER, Texas – A federal grand jury in Tyler returned an indictment this week charging an Athens man with arson in the Eastern District of Texas, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei today.
According to court documents, Brandon Blake Neeley, 19, of Athens, was arrested on Oct. 5, 2020 as he attempted to leave the scene of a fire at the Dogwood Estates Water Company Pump No. 2 building. Four days earlier, on Oct. 1, 2020, another building belonging to Dogwood Estates that housed Pump No. 4, was also set ablaze. Dogwood Estates Water Company serves more than 400 Athens-area homes. After both Pump No. 2 and Pump No. 4 were destroyed, Dogwood was forced to use a backup pump not designed to bear the full load of customer demands. Customers have been asked to limit their water usage until the burned pumps can be repaired or replaced. The two fires caused more than $200,000 in damage.
“The destruction of the Dogwood Estates Pumps threatened water access for numerous Athens residents who rely on the pumping station to go about their daily lives,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei. “Protection of our nation’s critical infrastructure from criminals, vandals, and saboteurs is a top priority for federal, state, and local law enforcement, and these charges demonstrate that.”
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 considering the U.S. 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 prosecuting the case.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.