BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Federal prosecutors are making an example of those who caused chaos during the April riots. A teenager accused of setting a police car on fire and causing an explosion in the Penn-North neighborhood has pleaded not guilty to federal arson charges.
WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren the teen faces some tough punishment.
Federal agents tell WJZ more riot-related arrests are coming. As for this case, Donta Betts faces more than 30 years in prison if he’s convicted. He’s more likely to serve that time because these are federal charges.
Six months after chaos reigned in Baltimore, federal authorities are continuing their crackdown, and 19-year-old Donta Betts—captured lighting a fire in a picture—faces some of the most serious charges.
He pleaded not guilty to obstruction of law enforcement, attempted arson and making a destructive device.
“It’s very important for the city to recognize that when people commit violent acts like this, they’re going to be held responsible,” said Dave Cheplak, ATF special agent.
The indictment describes a series of criminal activity that started at 4:47 p.m. on April 27 and ended with an explosion at 5:58 p.m.
The feds say he tried to set a police car on fire and lit propane cylinders near officers. The blast sent dangerous shrapnel flying through the air.
“This is property, other people’s property that you destroyed,” said Jeanette Carrington.
“You can’t just focus on one person for what a whole bunch of people done. He wasn’t the only one who done that,” said Dennis Pulley.
Prosecutors claim Betts confessed, saying: “…I did all this because that was my period to go wild on police.”
Federal authorities have also charged two others, as they work to solve seven arsons in Baltimore from the unrest.
Just days ago, they also released new video of a beating near the CVS—a man getting kicked in the head.
U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein has warned anyone participating in the riots should know they will be tracked down and sent to prison.
“People just don’t have a license to go wild and do whatever it is they want,” said Special Agent Cheplak.
Donta Betts will remain in custody until his trial. He also faces attempted murder charges in an unrelated case.
Betts is being defended by federal public defenders. None of his family showed up in court on Friday.
Anyone with information on arsons committed during the riots should contact 1-888-ATF-FIRE. You can remain anonymous.