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Man Who Torched Home with Fireworks Sent to State Prison

February 27, 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: David L. Burdett, 215.348.6591, dlburdett@buckscounty.org

Abraham Keita Jr.
   Abraham Keita Jr.

A young man who unintentionally burned down a Falls Township home by throwing fireworks into its carport was sentenced Monday in Bucks County Common Pleas Court to serve 18 months to three years in state prison.

Abraham Keita Jr., 23, of Morrisville, a former high school athlete once offered a college soccer scholarship, apologized in a soft voice to “the victims of my childish and immature behavior.”

The middle-aged couple who owned the home escaped injury but lost their house and most of their possessions in the June 3 fire last year.

“Very little was salvageable, as what didn’t get burned got smoke and water damage,” Lisa Nollie, who was home at the time, told Keita in court. “Thank God no one was hurt, as you set the fire at 11:40 p.m. If I was asleep I don’t know if I would have made it out.”

Keita and some juvenile acquaintances were lighting fireworks along the 500 block of Stevens Road that night, tossing them close to houses from the road as a prank. At the Nollies’ home, Keita threw one of the fireworks into a carport, which contained flammable materials that quickly caught fire.

“I understand that you didn’t intend to do this (but) try to imagine what they’ve gone through,” Judge Wallace H. Bateman Jr. told Keita. “They’ll never get over this. They’ll never be made whole again.”

Keita’s attorney, First Deputy Public Defender Peter C. Hall, cast his client as a promising young man from a good family who had lost his way in recent years. After deciding he wasn’t ready for college after high school, Keita worked in fast food restaurants and a personal-care home, and functioned as a middleman in some small marijuana sales.

“He was essentially drifting and smoking some pot most days,” Hall said. Keita had no criminal record when arrested on multiple felonies related to the fire and charges stemming from two marijuana sales of less than $100 around the time of the arson.

The devastating fire, Hall said, was “a completely unintended consequence of a reckless and intentional act….The consequences are far out of proportion for this kind of behavior.”

Despite Keita’s relatively clean history, Assistant District Attorney David L. Burdett said he nonetheless was an adult who should have known the dangers posed by throwing fireworks at a residence.

“The defendant is indeed fortunate that nobody was harmed,” Burdett said. The victims “might get a new house out of this, but it won’t be the same” because of the losses of their photos and personal possessions, many of them irreplaceable.

“This may have been a foolish decision, but the ripple effects of it are considerable,” Burdett said.

Lisa Nollie told Keita that she harbored “no hate for you, nor do I have ill wishes. It’s my hope that, whatever sentence you get, you use this time wisely to reflect on your actions and the pain and suffering it caused. That thought is very simple; just think how you would feel if this happened to you and your family.”

Bateman, calling the facts of the case “shocking,” sentenced Keita to serve 18 months to three years for the arson and to pay $40,637.81 in restitution for damages not covered by the Nollies’ insurance. He also sentenced him to a concurrent three years of probation for possession with intent to deliver marijuana.

“Over what? Why? Why did all of this happen?” the judge pondered aloud. “That’s the thing I don’t understand.”

The case was investigated by the Falls Township Police Department. 

Office of the District Attorney
Bucks County Justice Center
100 N. Main Street
Doylestown, PA 18901 
Phone: 215-348-6344 
Fax: 215-348-6299

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