Judge withdraws guilty plea in Christopher Deverso arson case

Christopher Deverso at his 2012 arraignment.

An Onondaga County Court judge has taken back the August guilty plea of a man accused of setting a fire that caused nearly half a million dollars in total damages to a Clay garage last summer, meaning the case will go to trial.

41-year-old Christopher Deverso is due back in court next Thursday for a hearing. At that point, a trial date will be set by Judge Joseph Fahey.

Deverso is charged with arson, conspiracy, and insurance fraud for his role in starting a fire at the 40-bay garage at the Norstar Apartment Complex on July 3, 2012. Investigators say he and another man, Robert Swartz from Denver, were responsible - although the two men had very different stories when they were arraigned last year.

In an signed affidavit, Swartz said he started the fire at the Norstar Apartments garage but only after Deverso gave him the key code to the garage, where Deverso stored two classic cars worth about $80,000. Swartz said Deverso had promised to pay him $10,000, which would come from the insurance money.

Deverso, meanwhile said he did not start the fire, saying it was "...the second worst thing that could have happened to me. The worst was my daughter's death."

His daughter, 17-year-old Victoria Deverso, was killed in a drunk driving crash in Bridgeport in 2010.

You may remember Deverso first made headlines in 2009, when the New York Department of Environmental Conservation tried to take a snakehead fish from his home because it was an illegal species.

More recently, in August, Deverso pled guilty to a lesser charge of third degree attempted arson, which would have meant six months in jail with five months probation. He would also have had to pay back payments of up to $10,000 and withdraw all insurance claims.