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Judge Accepts Plea in McCormick Observatory Arson Case - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Judge Accepts Plea in McCormick Observatory Arson Case

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Albemarle County Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Higgins accepted a plea agreement Thursday morning in the McCormick Observatory arson case.

In June, Joseph Duva was indicted by a grand jury on an arson charge. Thursday's agreement turns the charge in to felony property damage (18.2-138/18.2-10). The 21-year-old was sentenced to five years in prison with all but time serve suspended. He will have to pay back UVA $418.52 for the damage and is not allowed on UVA property in the future.

Prosecutors say Duva broke a window on the ground level of the McCormick Observatory at UVA on February 22. Investigators found burnt paper - including a charred job application - and matches. Prosecutors say fingerprints on the burnt newspaper linked them to Duva.

In October Judge Higgins held off on accepting a plea agreement in the case until a psychological evaluation was reviewed. Higgins reasoned her delay on "a pattern that concerns the court". 

Duva's criminal record includes shooting out windows of cars. Duva was arrested in Charlottesville in March, about two weeks after the observatory fire.  Police say he shot out car windows with a BB gun in the Fry's Spring neighborhood. Court records show Duva was found guilty of destruction of property for the March crimes.

Thursday Judge Higgins received the mental health evaluation on Duva. The report said Duva suffers from an impulse control disorder which can be resistant to treatment.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Darby Lowe said the agreement was needed to make sure Duva gets the necessary treatment for his disorder. Duva must also not consume alcohol as part of the agreement. In court Duva said he had a problem with alcohol.

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