Princeton University student accused of arson

Dec. 16 fire was confined to an outside storage area at Holder Hall

By: David Campbell
   A Princeton University junior has been accused of arson in connection with a fire that occurred last week at the university’s Holder Hall quadrangle.
   Robert Scott Huettig, 22, was charged Dec. 16 with one count of aggravated arson, a second-degree offense, Casey DeBlasio, spokeswoman for the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, said this week.
   She said the investigation is ongoing.
   At about 5:45 a.m. on Dec. 16, smoke was reported in the quadrangle, caused by a fire in a temporary construction storage area in an exterior alcove adjacent to the Rockefeller-Mathey dining hall, Ms. DeBlasio said.
   The dining hall adjoins the Holder quadrangle.
   The Princeton Fire Department responded, but upon arrival the fire had been extinguished by university officials, Chief Patrick McAvenia said.
   Mr. Huettig, a native of Chestnut Hill, Mass., and a member of Princeton’s Class of 2007, was arrested Dec. 16 and released Saturday after posting $50,000 bail.
   He faces five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000 if convicted, Ms. DeBlasio said.
   University spokeswoman Cass Cliatt said Mr. Huettig has been "suspended without prejudice" pending the outcome of an investigation. He has been told he is not permitted on campus, Ms. Cliatt said.
   She said nobody was injured in the fire and there was no significant damage to Holder Hall, but said some soot resulting from the blaze had to be removed. Some material belonging to the construction contractor, valued at about $1,500, was damaged, she said.
   Police in Princeton Borough, where the fire occurred, investigated the fire scene. Princeton Township police and county arson investigators, who have been conducting an investigation into several recent fires on campus jointly with the university’s Department of Public Safety, handled the arrest and questioning of the suspect, Ms. DeBlasio said.
   The county spokeswoman said she could not discuss what information authorities obtained to link Mr. Huettig to last week’s blaze.
   She said the Princeton student will be investigated for any connection he might have with the other recent campus fires.
   Two fires broke out in the morning hours of Dec. 4 in the Lourie-Love and Scully residential halls on the university campus. No substantial property damage was sustained in those incidents.
   The blaze in Lourie-Love Hall, which occurred in a basement exercise room, was deemed a possible arson. Burning computer paper was found underneath a foosball table and the sprinkler head had been covered to prevent it from activating, Ms. Cliatt has said.
   The fire in Scully Hall, discovered in a hallway garbage can, was not considered suspicious in nature. It could have been started accidentally by something like a lit cigarette.
   As with the blaze in Lourie-Love, Scully Hall was temporarily evacuated and nobody was injured, the university spokeswoman has said.