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North Tonawanda arson suspect rejects last chance for plea

LOCKPORT - The former North Tonawanda firefighter charged with setting a fire in the home of the city's only African-American firefighter rejected on Friday his last chance at a plea offer.

Niagara County Assistant District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann offered Matthew W. Jurado a chance to plead to a reduced felony with a 10-year limit on his prison sentence. There would have been a mandatory minimum of 3 1/2 years.

"Following today's date, there will be no plea offer to Mr. Jurado," Hoffmann told County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III.

"My client was looking for a lower plea offer," defense attorney A. Joseph Catalano said.

An April 24 trial date has been set for Jurado, 40, on a second-degree arson charge. That carries a mandatory minimum prison term of five years and a maximum of 25 years. Catalano, however, said he wants to postpone the trial to better fit the schedule of an expert witness he wants to call to challenge some aspects of the fire investigation.

After first denying involvement, Jurado told police that he poured lighter fluid on the couch in the Oliver Street apartment of Kenneth D. Walker on Aug. 3 and set it on fire. That came two days after Walker received a racially threatening letter. Murphy is expected to rule by April 13 on the admissibility of the confession.

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