The USM Police Department is investigating a USM student who was caught trying to set fire to a dorm carpet and may charge him with attempted arson.

USM Police served John Harrington, 19, with a summons for reckless conduct after an RA reported finding him trying to light fire to a rug in Andrews Hall on Jan. 30.

The case is being reviewed by the district attorney’s office to “see if the elements are there for attempted arson,” said USM Police Detective Ron Saindon. He would not discuss what materials Harrington was using when caught, citing the open status of the investigation.

Harrington could not be reached for comment. Calls dispatched to his room through a University operator were picked up by an answering machine that did not have his name on it.

Arson and attempted arson are grounds for being removed from housing or school altogether, said Steve Nelson, assistant to the vice president for Community Standards. Nelson executes the punitive measures of the student conduct code.

Nelson declined to discuss Harrington’s case because of federal privacy law. “Creation of a fire hazard or other dangerous condition” is listed as a violation in the University of Maine Student Conduct Code.

For “that whole category of fire issues,” Nelson said, which includes arson and attempted arson, “our minimum sanction is dismissal from the University of Maine system.”

“[UMS] says that is too much of a risk for the institution,” he said.

USM, he added, does not have to wait for a formal arson charge to be filed before removing accused students from school.

“We might kick them out on the front end, ahead of the formal process, because we’ve said, ‘you’re a danger to us,'” said Nelson.

Harrington is due to answer his reckless conduct charge in Portland District Court on March 8.

Staff writer Chris Baker can be contacted at [email protected]

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