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Prosecutors delivered their closing arguments this morning in the case against Vasile Graure, a truck driver accused of setting fire to Glover Park strip club Good Guys last year. Graure is charged with seven counts of assault with intent to kill, one count of arson, two of burglary, and one of mayhem.
“Don’t play with fire,” prosecutor Kacie Weston said. “This is what we’re taught since we are very young, because of the damage it causes and the speed with which it causes that damage.” She continued, “Vasile Graure used fire as his own personal weapon to get even. . . to burn that building to the ground and kill everyone inside.”
After rehashing evidence in the case that Weston said was “undisputed”—-that Graure was a truck driver and tourist in D.C., that he went to Good Guys, that he was asked to leave for taking a photo, that he left the club, and that a fire soon alighted in the building, melting televisions and exit signs, and seriously injuring Good Guys bouncer Vladimir Djordjevic—-Weston underscored witness testimony of Djordjevic’s statements following the fire. “The man came back with the can and I tried to stop him . . . the man we kicked out,” Weston repeated. Djordjevic, still critically injured from last year’s fire, could not leave the hospital to take the stand in the case.
Weston then turned to the events that occurred following the fire. Graure conspicuously stopped his tourist activity, Weston said: He didn’t go out to eat, drink, or see the city’s entertainment. He didn’t return to any strip clubs. He stayed in his hotel room. He put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door. He ate bags of chips and sodas out of vending machines. “He was not being a tourist,” said Weston. “He was being out of sight.”
Weston again showed the jury a photo of Graure as he was arrested inside an Alexandria Day’s Inn. In the photo, red burns stretch from his handcuffed wrists up to his elbows. But Graure didn’t go seek treatment at a hospital, Weston said. He self-medicated his burns with Vaseline and gauze. He covered his hands when he went outside. And he grew a beard. “He was trying to hide, trying to change his appearance,” she said.
“He’s still trying to change his appearance,” Weston argued. After witness Kathleen Lazorchack identified Graure in the courtroom, Weston says, Graure came back the next day “and he had shaved his head,” she says.
Weston then argued that Graure’s intent in the case was clear. “The defendant’s actions show that he was trying to kill everyone in that club and specifically in the area where he poured the gasoline,” she says. “He took his time,” she added. “He left the club. He walked to the gas station. It took him time to walk to the Chevron station. And it took time to talk to [station attendant] Mr. Berhane.”
When he returned to the club, Weston said, Graure poured gas. “Not in a small spot on the floor, or in a trash can to make a point,” she said. “He poured it everywhere he could reach. . . . He didn’t come down to this building in the middle of the night to make a point. To burn it down when no one was there,” she added. “What other intent is there for lighting gasoline in a fully occupied building?” she said.
“You don’t yell fire in a crowded theatre,” concluded Weston. Graure “did far, far worse,” she said. “He lit a fire in a crowded club.”
Weston asked the jury to convict Graure on all counts.