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Alibi exonerates ex-lawyer accused of setting his girlfriend on fire

Posted Jun 17, 2014 10:17 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Prosecutors have dropped the charges against a suspended Minnesota lawyer who made headlines after he was accused of setting his sleeping girlfriend on fire.

Dakota County prosecutors dismissed the charges against David John Gherity, 61, after checking out his alibi, the Pioneer Press reports. Gherity had said he was working at a landscaping and snow-removal company in St. Paul during the February fire, a claim that was backed up by time-stamped videos.

Gherity was charged with first-degree assault and arson in April, when prosecutors alleged he put alcohol, lotion and possibly hair spray and fingernail polish remover on his girlfriend before setting her on fire. The victim had been placed in a medically induced coma after the fire, but after she awoke she described the incident for police.

The victim said she was in the condo with Gherity before the fire, and he was “stressed.” She fell asleep after drinking and taking some medication. She woke up to the fire. The victim’s sister said Gherity had suggested the victim’s nail polish, nail polish remover or hair spray may have caused the fire; the victim said she hadn’t used any of those substances for months.

Gherity spent more than two months in jail before posting bail. His license was suspended because he failed to pay bar fees, according to a prior report. He also had a criminal record, with convictions for misdemeanor assault, disorderly conduct and possession of a dangerous weapon, the Pioneer Press says.

Gherity’s lawyer, Robert Miller, criticized police for taking more than two months to review the video. His client had a difficult time in jail, Miller told the Pioneer Press. "He sat in there knowing he was innocent and still loves this woman and knowing he can't have any contact with her," Miller said. "He was not treated well in jail. People don't like people who burn people up."

Prosecutors attributed the delay to the time it took for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to verify the authenticity of the video.

Gherity told the newspaper that without the video, "I'd be in prison for the rest of my life. This is a serious offense. I'm 61 years old. This is a 20-year commitment."

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