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FIREBOMBING WAS MEANT TO FRIGHTEN, NOT INJURE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY SAYS

SHARE FIREBOMBING WAS MEANT TO FRIGHTEN, NOT INJURE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY SAYS

Firebombs lobbed at a Bountiful businessman's home in March "went up like a torch in our hand," a man who threw one of them testified Monday in 2nd District Court.

Steven Kalt, granted immunity from prosecution for his role in the March 6 firebombing of Michael Strand's home, testified against his uncle, Percy Kalt, in the opening day of his trial on charges of aggravated arson.Percy Kalt, 58, a concert violinst and former music professor, lost $25,000 in a stock deal with Strand and was trying to frighten him into refunding the money, his nephew testified.

Percy Kalt's attorney, John O'Connell, admitted to the six-woman, two-man jury in his opening statement Wednesday that his client tossed a firebomb at Strand's home. But he said Percy Kalt did it to scare Strand, not burn down the house or injure anyone.

Aggravated arson is a first-degree felony, and the former professor faces five years to life in prison if convicted on the charge.

Steven Kalt, 31, testified his uncle came to his Salt Lake home from Provo the night of March 6 with two empty 16-ounce soda pop bottles. They washed them out, wearing surgical gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints, then filled them three-quarters full of gasoline, the younger Kalt testified.

After tearing strips off a towel and stuffing them in the bottles as wicks, they drove to Strand's home - after stopping at a convenience store for matches - and carried out their attack, Steven Kalt testified.

Neither he nor his uncle had any experience with the firebombs, called molotov cocktails, the nephew testified, and when they lit the gasoline-soaked wicks they "went up like a torch in our hand and we threw them.

"When those bottles went up, we didn't move, we just threw them," Steven Kalt testified. "It was either the house or our hands."

One firebomb landed in a snowbank in front of Strand's home and burned some bushes but the other crashed through a basement window and set a guest bedroom on fire, according to testimony from Strand and Bountiful firefighters.

The younger Kalt gave conflicting testimony on his uncle's feelings toward occupants of the house, at one point saying Percy Kalt told him he just wanted to frighten Strand and not hurt anyone.

But he also testified they didn't check to see if the house was occupied and his uncle had told him previously while planning the attack that "if that's the case, then that's the case" regarding anyone in the house.

And when he told Percy Kalt the day after the attack that, based on news accounts, the house was occupied, his uncle "just sort of laughed," Steven Kalt said. Percy Kalt offered him $2,000 to help recover his money from Strand, Steven Kalt said.

Strand, along with his wife and daughter, was home when the house was firebombed. He testified that the bedroom that was damaged was occupied by guests who had left that morning after a three-day stay.

O'Connell admitted in his opening statement that Percy Kalt's actions that night were stupid, saying his client isn't proud of what he did. But he said he had no intention of burning down Strand's home or injuring anyone in it.

He intended to commit an act of vandalism, not aggravated arson, O'Connell said, as part of what the attorney described as an inept campaign to get Strand to pay back $25,000 he lost in a stock deal.