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Defense of Augusta Man Convicted of Arson: Toss Guilty Verdict - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Defense of Augusta Man Convicted of Arson: Toss Guilty Verdict

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An Augusta County man found guilty of setting fire to a church is trying to get his conviction thrown out.

Attorneys for Paul Lenwill Cupp claim they got blindsided by a key witness changing his testimony.

An Augusta County jury recommended an eight-year prison term for Cupp. No witness saw Cupp – or anyone else – actually set fire to the church. What a key witness did see is the subject of this new court fight.

The 37-year-old Cupp has been jailed since his arson conviction last September. He was arrested just days after the small fire outside the Hildebrand Mennonite Church near Hermitage.

During the preliminary hearing, one witness reported seeing a man roughly matching Cupp's description in a pickup truck near the church. But at the trial, the same witness positively identified the defendant, something that came as a surprise to his attorneys.

They told a judge that prevented them from properly questioning the witness and impeaching his testimony. But prosecutors say they made the same discovery just one day before the trial and tried to notify the defense right away.

If the judge finds that the testimony change is key to Cupp's case and not given to his attorneys in time, he could grant the defense motion to set aside the guilty verdict, and order a new trial.

Judge Victor Ludwig listened to arguments from the prosecution and defense Thursday, and will issue a written ruling in the case.

Meanwhile, Cupp remains behind bars, awaiting sentencing.

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