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Appeals Court Upholds Restaurant Owner's Arson Conviction

By William Vogeler, Esq. on May 02, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Back when it first opened, Snow's Clam Box was a popular place to eat.

Visitors liked the food, the location, and the service. That was before the restaurant caught fire.

In United States v. Saad, it turned out the owner torched the place for the insurance money. He appealed his arson conviction, but by then his goose was cooked.

Bad Business

Actually, the restaurant didn't serve goose. Like most restaurants in Rhode Island, it served seafood. But the owner did cook up a plan when his business started to tank.

How bad was it? It was so bad he literally couldn't put food on the tables because he was broke. Daniel Saad was kiting so many checks the overdraft fees were almost $200,000.

Then on November 20, 2014, a fire broke out at the restaurant. Investigators found gasoline residue at the ignition point, and somebody had turned off the security cameras. Saad told them one story, then changed it three times.

At the criminal trial, his wife testified that he asked her to provide a false alibi for the day the restaurant burned. Cell phone evidence also put him at the scene of the crime. Jurors found him guilty in one day, and he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

"Overwhelming Evidence"

Saad appealed on various grounds, but the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals was not persuaded by any of them.

"There is overwhelming evidence that the fire was started by Saad, who used gasoline to aid its spread," the appeals court said.

The judges said Saad had a point, however, about the prosecutor's closing argument. The attorney said Saad was a "good storyteller," that his testimony was "malarkey," and his key witness was an "unmitigated liar."

The First Circuit said such statements were improper, but they did not change the outcome of the case.

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