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Federal judge blocks pre-trial release of Buffalo City Hall arson suspect

Posted at 1:43 PM, Jul 28, 2020

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — On June 22 a judge ordered Courtland Renford, the man accused of starting a fire inside Buffalo City Hall, to be released to a family member for home confinement as he awaits trial. A federal judge has now blocked that decision and ordered Renford be detained until trial.

Renford is accused of starting the fire following a protest in response to the death of George Floyd.

The attorney for Renford submitted a motion for release in June, under a "changes in circumstances" submission that listed the mother of Renford's sister as the person who would be accountable for him on release. The motion indicated Renford would live with his father.

In addition to the change in circumstance, Renford's attorney also submitted evidence showing the damage inside City Hall. In court documents, the attorney says, "it is my belief that the Government stated that there were thousands of dollars in damage to the area in which the fire was posited in Buffalo City Hall. I have attached an exhibit which shows that this may not be true."

The judge ruled in favor of Renford, allowing him to live with his father upon release on $20,000 bond. Renford was ordered to be on "home incarceration" as motions continued in the case.

According to court documents filed in U.S. District Court Tuesday, "the Government argues that the conditions of release will not reasonably assure Defendant’s appearance as required or reasonably ensure the safety of the community pending the trial."

Court documents say the evidence Renford committed the arson is substantial and he faces a mandatory-minimum term of 5 years of in prison if he is convicted, therefore the court states the incentive for Renford to flee before trial is real.

Renford's criminal history is also provided as reasoning to block his pre-trial release according to court documents.

"Although Defendant Renford is only 20 years of age, he has accumulated a criminal record that will put him in Criminal History Category IV under United States Sentencing Guidelines if he is convicted as charged. He has been the subject of multiple bench warrants while under court supervision. He has committed additional crimes while under court supervision."

The court has revoked the previous authorization of his release and orders he be detained until trial.

Renford faces state charges that carry a maximum sentence of 3-15 years in prison, and federal charges with a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison upon conviction.