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Man Charged With Arson After Fire at Staten Island Convent

By Nicholas Rizzi | October 18, 2013 12:41pm | Updated on October 18, 2013 5:54pm
 Police arrested three teens in connection with setting fire a Staten Island convent.
Police arrested three teens in connection with setting fire a Staten Island convent.
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Flickr/Ace Starry

ARROCHAR — A man accused of setting fire to a Staten Island convent was charged with arson, but prosecutors dropped hate crime charges originally set by police.

Vincent Calder, 19, of Shore Acres, was arrested on Friday and charged with arson, reckless endangerment and criminal mischief and burglary. Police said he set fire to the Catholic convent on the grounds of St. Joseph Hill Academy on Oct. 12.

Calder was originally hit with a hate crime charges by cops, but was shut down by the Staten Island District Attorney's office at his arraignment on Friday because they couldn't find evidence that he targeted the convent for religious reasons, prosecutors said.

"At this time, there is insufficient evidence to charge defendant Calder under the hate crime statue," a spokesman for the DA said.

Another two men, Christopher Sasso, 19, and Diego Tuso, 19, were charged with burglary and criminal mischief.

The three were accused of taking a scroll, religious vestment, a gold Chalice valued at at least $100, and more from the convent before Calder set fire to the first and second floor, court documents said.

All three pleaded not guilty at their arraignment, the DA said. Calder's bail was set at $100,000, and Sasso and Tuso's was set at $25,000 cash.

The convent was set ablaze about 6 a.m. and was badly damaged on its first and second floor, police said. The church did not respond to requests for comment.

A 45-year-old nun was in the building and jumped out the window to safety. She fractured three vertebrae from the fall, court documents said.

Calder is due back in court on Oct. 21, and Sasso and Tuso on Oct. 23.