NEWARK, NJ — Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens II announced Feb. 7 that an Essex County jury has convicted Steve Cotto, 61, of Irvington, of aggravated arson following a trial before Superior Court Judge Siobhan Teare.
According to Assistant Prosecutor Sean Dickson, who tried the case with Assistant Prosecutor Brian Olsen, on July 17, 2016, the Irvington Police and Fire departments responded to the Paradizio Gentlemen’s Club, located in the 1000 block of Clinton Avenue in Irvington, on reports of a fire.
After the blaze was extinguished, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Crash and Fire Unit was called in to investigate due to the suspicious nature of the fire. Following an investigation, it was determined that a patron of the club had set fire to the structure by throwing Molotov cocktails and a gas can into the building.
It was later determined that the man setting fire to the club was Steve Cotto, who had been seen leaving the club earlier that evening. While being questioned about the fire, the defendant accused the club of robbing other patrons. The state’s theory at trial was that he believed he had been robbed.
An Essex County jury found the defendant guilty. Sentencing for Cotto is scheduled for April 12.
“Thanks to the quick action of law enforcement, this fire was contained before it spread to nearby residential properties,” Dickson said.
The defendant faces a minimum of five years in New Jersey State Prison. He must serve 85 percent of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.