Ex-homeless man guilty of arson in Morristown
By Pamela Garretson, Daily Record

Michael Gesregan, who was homeless and living in a vacant lumberyard last winter, pleaded guilty on Monday to two counts of arson and failure to report a fire that destroyed the property Jan. 8.

A Morris County grand jury had indicted Gesregan, 42, in July on four counts of arson, two counts of criminal mischief and one count of failure to report the fire on Elm Street in Morristown.

Gesregan told Superior Court Judge Salem V. Ahto Monday that he lived on the second floor of the lumberyard building. On Jan. 8, he said, he lighted candles that ignited blankets and pieces of cardboard. The resulting blaze ripped through the structure around 3:45 a.m., risking the lives of other transients and renters who lived next door.

"I woke up everybody in the lumberyard personally," Gesregan told the judge. "I made sure everybody in the lumberyard got out."

Gesregan and five other homeless people were living in the 23,700-square-foot building, owned by developer Lawrence Berger. The building was demolished after the fire. A neighboring antiques and fine furnishings store on Elm Street, with apartments on its second and third floors, was extensively damaged by heat, smoke and water.

Joel Harris, Gesregan's attorney, said Gesregan likely would receive three years in prison with one year of parole ineligibility. A sentencing date was tentatively set for Nov. 21.

Harris said Gesregan is living with his wife in Lake Hopatcong.