A Harvard Law School grad insists he was too drunk to remember - so he was reminded in court that he spent two hours torching a sacred 9/11 chapel.
Prosecutors seeking a stiff prison term for Brian Schroeder revealed that the Ivy League lush took his time building a sick bonfire in the Manhattan chapel out of photos and mementos of those killed in the 2001 terrorist attack.
"For two hours the defendant meticulously added every photograph, letter and memento to his fire," Assistant District Attorney Lucy Lang said at a Manhattan Supreme Court hearing Thursday on a possible plea deal for Schroeder.
"What he left behind was a symbol of disrespect and dishonor for the dead," Lang said.
Schroeder, 27, turned himself in a day after the Oct. 31 blaze at the makeshift memorial on E. 30th St. and the FDR Drive - where remains of unidentified 9/11 victims are held.
The chapel is across the street from the city Medical Examiner's Office and had become "one of New York City's most sacred private places" for relatives of 9/11 victims, Lang said.
She said Schroeder's act of drunken vandalism "reinjured" the victims' families.
She said Schroeder burned the photo of one Japanese victim, Yoichi Sugiyama, and a paper origami chain of cranes left by her father. She said Sugiyama's father reacted to the vandalism by writing a new message reading, "Your picture was burned; your memory was not burned."
Lang told Justice Rena Uviller her office would only entertain a plea deal that included a minimum of 1-to-3 years in prison and $25,000 in restitution.
She scoffed at Schroeder's excuse that he was too drunk to remember desecrating the chapel, saying he was able to describe in detail portions of what he did to a grand jury.
Defense lawyer, Alan Lewis, countered that Schroeder, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges of arson and reckless endangerment, is "profoundly sorry."
"Mr. Schroeder is not a vandal ... he's not a 9/11 denier," Lewis said. "On the contrary, he's tremendously sympathetic."
Lewis said what happened was an aberration, and suggested someone slipped something into Schroeder's drink. He said Schroeder has blacked out before, but "he has never hurt a flea."
He asked Uviller to consider showing Schroeder mercy by not sending him to prison.
He said Schroeder has been working for the nonprofit group Friends of Island Academy counseling ex-cons.
If the case ends up going to trial, Schroeder faces a maximum of 14 years in prison if convicted.
Uviller said she'll ponder the arguments on both sides and offer a plea deal Nov. 3.
Originally from Texas, Schroeder's arrest cost him a job offer at the white-shoe Manhattan lawfirm of Sidley Austin, where first-year associates make more than $161,000 a year.
On the day of the 9/11 attacks, Sidley Austin occupied five floors and had some 600 employees in the north tower of the World Trade Center. One employee, switchboard operator Rosemary Smith, was killed.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2010/10/07/2010-10-07_harvard_grad_who_torched_911_memorial_says_he_was_too_drunk_to_remember_fire_law.html#ixzz11ljb90Lq
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