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Electrician Gets Five Years for Fatal Fire Caused By Faulty Work

August 10, 1990

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ An electrician convicted of doing faulty work that caused a fatal fire was sentenced today to five years in prison in what was described as the first case of its kind in the nation.

Electrician Richard E. Salz, 49, was convicted of second-degree manslaughter. But before being sentenced, he told Superior Court Judge Joseph T. Gormley Jr. that he had done nothing wrong.

″I did the job properly,″ said Salz, who claimed witnesses against him had lied. ″This was a kangaroo court.″

Prosecutor Michael Dearington said Salz did not simply make a mistake but was guilty of ″flagrant, reprehensible, egregious work.″

In June, a Superior Court jury convicted Salz of second-degree manslaughter in the death of 12-year-old Burton Gorman III, who died of smoke inhalation in a 1988 house fire in the neighboring town of East Haven.

Salz’ faulty installation of a heating unit in the basement of the home of Burton H. and Louise Gorman, the victim’s grandparents, caused the fire, investigators said.

Besides failing to get a permit for the work, Salz ignored the manufacturer’s instructions for installing the heater and committed more than a dozen electrical code violations, authorities said.

National trade groups said the case marked the first time an electrician was found criminally liable for work that caused a fatal fire. The judge also said it was a unique case.

His lawyer, James Ullman, said that at most, Salz was guilty of sloppy workmanship. He said the verdict would be appealed.

″The state has tried to raise this case to the level of taking a rifle and firing it into a crowd,″ Ullman said. ″This kind of prosecution could lend itself to a very serious attack on all professionals.″

Despite the criminal charge against him, the state Electrical Work Examining Board this spring gave Salz a journeyman’s electrician’s license, which requires that his work be supervised. His contractor’s license, which allows an electrician to work without supervision, was revoked in July 1989.

Ullman said Salz has been unable to get work as an electrician but was working as a plumber.

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