HUDSON — The trial of two Columbia County men accused of setting fire to a house in October 2017 for $1 million in insurance began Monday in Columbia County Court.
Barry Goldstein, 76, of Stockport, was arraigned Nov. 14, 2018, on charges of first-degree insurance fraud, a class B felony; third-degree arson, a class C felony; and first-degree reckless endangerment, a class D felony.
Goldstein is suspected of setting fire to his home at 290 Route 25 in Stockport on Oct. 1, 2017, a blaze that put neighbors and firefighters at risk, authorities said. Goldstein, through his attorney, Roy K. Nestler of Delmar, pleaded not guilty to the charges.
But Goldstein did not appear to act alone, police said.
William P. Travis III, 33, of Stuyvesant, is also suspected of setting fire to the home and is being tried as a co-defendant in the case. Travis was charged Dec. 20, 2017, with third-degree arson, a class C felony, in connection with the Oct. 1 fire that destroyed the Stockport home.
Police accused Travis of going to the home and starting the fire, police said. Columbia County Sheriff’s Office investigators probed the incident for more than a year before making their arrest. Police said they believe an accelerant was used in the blaze.
Columbia County Judge Richard M. Koweek, who is presiding over the case, listened to excuses from potential jurors throughout the day Monday. Prosecution and defense attorneys were expected to question potential jurors in small groups as part of voir dire, a legal term that means attorneys can reject certain jurors from hearing the case if there is a conflict.
Bringing the fire under control required manpower and many hours from several nearby volunteer fire departments. About a hundred firefighters worked from 10 p.m. to 7 p.m. the next day to make sure the blaze and all hot spots were fully extinguished.
The size and age of the home were challenging for firefighters. The fire required a staggering amount of water, Stockport Volunteer Fire Company Second Assistant Chief Matthew Tuczynski said in October 2017. What remained of the structure was demolished the day after the blaze.
Four phone calls — three made by Travis and one by his wife, Raquel — to Goldstein were monitored by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office as part of the investigation. They are expected to be played for the jury.
Travis is being held in Columbia County Jail in lieu of $20,000 bail. Goldstein, who was held on $25,000 bail, was released after posting bond.
Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka declined to comment on Travis’ connection to Goldstein or his motive, saying it would come out during the trial. Goldstein was out of town and no one was inside the home when the fire started, fire officials said in October 2017. Goldstein did not receive the $1 million insurance payment.
If convicted, Goldstein faces 25 years in prison.
Goldstein has been living on the county Route 25 property in a mobile home, where he was arrested Nov. 14, 2018, Columbia County Sheriff David Bartlett said. He bought the house in 1998.
To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.