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Baden case goes to superior court

By Andrea Lamberti

Steven H. Baden '92 pleaded innocent Wednesday to charges of burning a dwelling and five counts of armed assault with intent to murder in connection with a fire in the "kosher suite" in Burton-Conner House Jan. 18, The Middlesex News reported yesterday.

Baden was arraigned in Middlesex Superior Court Wednesday, and a pre-trial conference date was set for Feb. 28. Yesterday, the case was dismissed from Cambridge District Court and moved to Middlesex Superior Court.

Wednesday, Judge Paul A. Chernoff reduced the bail from $50,000 surety or $5000 cash to $10,000 surety or $1000 cash on the conditions that Baden be placed on pretrial probation, that he stay away from all prosecution witnesses, and that he stay away from MIT during the trial, The Middlesex News reported.

Both Baden and his attorney, Deborah Finkel, declined to comment on yesterday's court proceedings.

According to The Middlesex News, Assistant District Attorney Crispin Birnbaum declined to comment on a motive, but defense lawyer Eric Levine said the prosecutors may allege that a "previous altercation between Baden and another student over using the suite kitchen" had something to do with the fire being set.

The other student was identified by some sources last month to be David E. Borison '91, Baden's next-door neighbor in Burton Suite 252 -- the kosher suite.

The relationship between Baden and Borison had been on shaky ground for some time before the fire last month, sources said at the time. Borison and Baden "quarreled often. It was a clear case of personality conflict," Shifra S. Teitz '92, president of MIT Hillel, said last month.

One week before the fire, Baden and Borison had had an argument on the standard of kashrut, or "kosherness," in the suite. Borison admitted at the time that this issue had been a point of contention between the two.

Baden was arrested Jan. 18, the day of the fire, after Cambridge Police officers investigated the burned suite, which keeps one of two kosher kitchens on campus.

Baden indicated yesterday that he would like to communicate, but in the end, he said, "No comment." He inquired about the news on campus because he has not been on campus recently.

Borison said yesterday that, to his knowledge, Baden has not communicated with people on campus. "I haven't spoken to him; I don't think anybody's spoken to him since that day, at least in the suite," he said.

Baden first became suspect for the fire the morning it occurred, according to a Jan. 18 Cambridge Police report. The fire had been set with "what appeared to be gasoline," according to the report.

The "pour mark" of the gasoline in the suite existed in front of all the other doors in the suite except Baden's, according to the police report. After examining the scene, the police interviewed the members of the suite.

The officers "spoke to Steven Baden, the occupant of room 252A -- the only room that the fire did not block the door -- and . . . also in this room was found a newspaper rolled up to approximately 36 inches and burnt on the end," according to the police report.

Soon after speaking with the police, Baden "admitted to setting the fire and that he bought the gas [the afternoon before] and placed it in his room" until early in the morning of Jan. 18, the report states, when he "removed the gas from the two plastic containers into a waste basket.

"[Baden stated] then later on he took this basket and poured the gas on the floor" in front of all the other rooms in the suite.

He then "set the basket across from [252B] and took a paper torch and set the gas on fire," the report states. The fire then "flared up, scaring him," Baden said to the police that day.

Baden also admitted to the police that he unlocked Borison's door with a key and that the fire blew the door of Borison's room open.

Borison said he and the remaining members of the suite moved back into a refurbished suite over the weekend of Feb. 1-3. The suite had been repainted, and new rugs and shades were installed, he added.