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Baden Sentenced to 10 Years for Armed Assault after Setting Fire to Burton Suite

By Katherine Shim
News Editor
____Steven H. Baden '92, who was arrested Jan. 18 and charged with arson after setting fire to the "kosher suite" of Burton-Conner House that morning, is serving a 10-year sentence at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Concord.

The fire, which began around 6 a.m., forced an evacuation of the dormitory. One student suffered a broken jaw after falling down the stairs while evacuating the building, according to the MIT News Office. Several others were treated for smoke inhalation.

Concern over `kashrut'

Joe Quinlan, assistant district attorney for Middlesex County, who was present at Baden's arraignment last January, said that Baden's actions were "a culmination of a dispute of long standing with another resident of the suite," who was identified as David E. Borison '91.

A week before the fire, Borison and Baden had a major quarrel concerning the standard of "kashrut," or "kosherness" in the kitchen that resulted in the suite's stove being broken.

Shifra S. Teitz '92, president of MIT Hillel said that she and others had been concerned over the level of kashrut in the suite. "There are only two kosher kitchens on campus, and their's was the larger one. Many members of the Jewish community used the suite's kitchen, so there was great concern that a certain degree of kashrut was maintained," she said.

Baden was president-elect of MIT Hillel when the fire occurred.

Baden pleaded guilty to charges of burning a dwelling and five counts of armed assault with intent to commit murder on June 7 in Middlesex Superior Court.

Judge Paul A. Chernoff of Middlesex County Superior Court handed down the sentence of 10 years in prison for armed assault with a concurrent suspended sentence of six to 10 years for arson on Aug. 21.

Baden had originally pleaded innocent to the charges in February when the case moved from district court to superior court. Cambridge District Court, where Baden was first arraigned, does not have jurisdiction over the charges against him.

Baden will be eligible for parole after one year and will have access to psychiatric counseling and therapy while incarcerated. If necessary, he will complete the suspended sentence for burning a dwelling at MCI-Cedar Junction.

"One of the conditions of Baden's parole is that he is forbidden contact with the people involved and other people from MIT," said Head of Student Assistance Services Robert M. Randolph.

Baden was suspended from MIT. His chances of returning to MIT "are nil," said Associate Dean for Student Affairs James R. Tewhey.

Every door but one

Baden first became suspect the morning the fire occurred when police investigators found that the "pour mark" of the gasoline in the suite existed in front of all doors in the suite except for Baden's and "a newspaper rolled up to approximately 36 inches and burnt on the end" was found in Baden's room, according to the police report.

Soon after being questioned by the police, Baden "admitted to setting the fire and that he bought the gas and placed it in his room" the afternoon before the fire, the report stated. Early in the morning on Jan. 18, he "removed the gas from the two plastic containers into a waste basket" which he used to pour the gasoline on the floor, according to the report.

He then "took a paper torch and set the gas on fire," the report added. The fire then "flared up, scaring him," the police report states.

Baden also admitted to unlocking Borison's door with a spare key that he obtained while working at the Burton House desk. The fire blew the door of Borison's room open.