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Lawyer: Warren County father not guilty of arson with children at home

“My client and I find ourselves in an unenviable position where we must defend my client in the media before the matter proceeds through the judicial system. Nonetheless, the law and legal standard are still the same as they have always been, despite this new standard in the age of social media - my client is innocent until proven guilty. People sit with relative anonymity in cyberspace, on their phone or at their keyboard on social media, passing judgment on others and lifting themselves up by pushing others down,” lawyer Griff M. Nowicki said.

Hartwig, 46, is accused of setting the fire on April 5 at his home on Honeysuckle Lane in Hamilton Twp., according to a press release issued by Hamilton Twp. Police Chief Scott Hughes.

Nowicki added, “ … Though this has become the new societal ‘norm’, the Warren County prosecutor, law enforcement and related fire investigative agencies should hold themselves above such behavior. However, they chose to stir up unnecessary and harmful drama and public outrage by releasing a press statement last week after my client’s arraignment.”

Hartwig, in “severe financial distress,” is alleged to have tampered with the home’s gas line to the fireplace “to burn at least part of it so he could collect the insurance proceeds,” Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said in a text message last week.

“What these statements from the Warren County prosecutor, Hamilton Township police and fire officials conveniently failed to indicate was that my client cooperated fully with the investigation; that my client voluntarily turned himself in to answer the indictment; that my client has entered a not guilty plea because he is not guilty; and that we will be trying this matter in the proper forum – the courtroom, before a jury,” Nowicki said.

Nowicki said that backlash on social media means “my client fears for his safety, the safety of his family, and most importantly, the safety and privacy of his children. There have been some that have taken to virtually attacking his children and family. There is no justifiable reason to attack children… We would ask that everyone remember they are just children and to please respect their privacy.”

Hartwig was free after posting $25,000 bond, awaiting his next hearing in Judge Robert Peeler’s court.