Savannah man sentenced to prison for setting fire at hotel

A transient man living in Savannah has been sentenced to federal prison for setting a February fire at a Savannah hotel.

Gary Taylor Smith, 35, of Savannah, was sentenced to 60 months in prison after pleading guilty to one count of Arson, said David H. Estes, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. U.S. District Court Judge William T. Moore Jr. also ordered Smith to pay $1,464.53 in restitution and to serve three years of supervised release after completion of his prison term. There is no parole in the federal system.

“Deliberately setting a fire at an occupied hotel is a cowardly and potentially deadly act,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Estes. “Thanks to quick work from the Savannah Fire Department and the ATF, Gary Smith is being held accountable for his crime.”

Smith was captured on video surveillance just after 3 a.m. on Feb. 28, 2021, when he set fire to a pile of rags behind the Marshall Hotel on East Broughton Street. Firefighters extinguished the blaze, which caused only minor smoke damage inside the hotel. All 68 occupants of the hotel were safely evacuated. Savannah Police officers arrested Smith three weeks later after identifying him from a surveillance photo.

“The identification and prosecution of arson crimes continues to be a core mission for ATF,” said ATF Assistant Special Agent in Charge Beau Kolodka. “Arson is a crime of violence that can result in death, injuries and property damage and we are proud to have worked with the Savannah Fire Department to quickly identify and apprehend Mr. Smith.”

“This case is another example of the importance of a strong working relationship between local and federal law enforcement,” said Savannah Fire Department Chief Fire Investigator Fred Anderson. “Together we were able to combine our investigative resources and bring this arsonist to justice.”

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Savannah Fire Department Arson Unit, and the Savannah Police Department, and prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tania G. Groover.

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