Evergreen fire aftermath

Evergreen fire: Felony counts against rabbis in fatal adult home inferno upheld

Evergreen fire aftermath
Evergreen Fire Aftermath Photo: John Meore/ The Journal News

“A Rockland County Court jury will likely decide whether rabbis Nathaniel and Aaron Sommer’s actions caused the fatal fire at the Evergreen Home for Adults, during which a Spring Valley firefighter and a resident died.

Judge Kevin Russo upheld the multi-count indictment charging the Sommers with causing the fire on March 22, 2021, at the Lafayette Avenue adult home in Spring Valley. The grand jury had returned felony counts that included manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, reckless endangerment, arson and assault.

Attorneys for the Sommers asked Russo to dismiss the indictment, arguing prosecutors’ legal arguments and facts ranged from wrong and misleading to ignoring and mischaracterizing binding court decisions.

Prosecutors countered in court papers the evidence presented to the grand jury was legally sufficient and rightly cited the two rabbis for causing the massive fire.

Russo found the evidence, though circumstantial, supported the charges and “is certainly strong enough to sustain a conviction.

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“This court has reviewed the evidence presented and finds that the presentation was legally sufficient to support the charges within the indictment,” Russo wrote in his eight-page decision. “As has been emphasized by the courts, the reviewing court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the people. “Additionally, it must allow for all reasonable inferences to be drawn from the evidence,” Russo wrote. “Based upon that standard, the people have presented evidence, albeit mostly circumstantial, that makes out a prima facie case for each crime charged.”

Read the complete Journal News coverage here.