A Kingston man whose 2018 conviction in an arson case was overturned by the state Supreme Court last month will remain behind bars as he awaits a new trial.
At a virtual bail hearing Tuesday, Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Daniel St. Hilaire found John Gates poses a danger to the public and will stay put at the state prison until county prosecutors retry him in a case in which he was accused of breaking into a Kingston convenience store, stealing $400 to fly to Turkey to try to meet up with a former online girlfriend, and then using a Molotov cocktail to set the building on fire.
A jury had convicted the 47-year-old Gates on charges related to the burglary and arson on Jan. 17, 2018, at the Carriage Towne Market. The fire damage forced the market to close and impacted several other businesses in the Carriage Towne Plaza.
Gates, who was previously convicted of identity fraud in a federal case in 2002, was sentenced to 10 to 30 years in prison.
Following his conviction, Gates challenged an order issued by Judge Amy Messer denying his motion to suppress evidence gathered by police when they entered the vestibule and utility closet in his apartment without a search warrant.
The Supreme Court ruled that Gates had a legitimate expectation of privacy in the utility closet and that police needed a warrant or a valid exception to the warrant requirement to lawfully enter.
The conviction was reversed and sent back to superior court.
Public defender Larissa Kiers asked the court to release Gates on personal recognizance bail following the conviction reversal.
She told the judge at Tuesday’s hearing that he continues to maintain his innocence and has had no disciplinary issues while in prison. He’s been working in the library and taking classes.
Kiers also told the court that Gates didn’t try to flee during the investigation.
“I would argue there is really no risk of flight here,” she said.
Assistant County Attorney Chris O’Brien urged the judge to keep Gates held on preventive detention pending trial.
He said there is “clear and convincing evidence that his release will endanger the safety of the public.”