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New Kids Singer Charged With Arson

March 28, 1991 GMT

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ New Kids on the Block lead singer Donnie Wahlberg was charged with first- degree arson Wednesday in a fire at the hotel where he and the rock group were staying.

Wahlberg, 20, was freed on $5,000 bail after turning himself in and performed at Freedom Hall to a sold-out crowd.

″The charge of arson is really ridiculous. In no way, shape or form did I break the law,″ he told reporters at a news conference before the concert.

Wahlberg was ordered to appear in court April 11. Conviction on the arson charge carries a prison term of 20 years to life.

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Fire Chief Russell Sanders said Wahlberg allegedly poured a flammable liquid on a rug on the ninth floor of the historic Seelbach Hotel and set it on fire. There were no injuries and no major damage.

″The report is that I ran down the hall pouring vodka all over the place trying to burn the place down. ... There was no vodka, there was no matches. ... I didn’t even rub two sticks together,″ Wahlberg said.

Several New Kids’ fans told WHAS-TV in Louisville that the incident began when Wahlberg accidentally sprayed a young boy in the eye with foam from a fire extinguisher in the hotel’s hallway.

Kelley Lewis of Ripley, Ohio, who was staying at the hotel before attending the concert, said the boy’s mother became angry with Wahlberg and the two began to argue.

Angela Rothrock, another hotel guest, said there was no fire. ″He poured something on the carpet but there was no flames, no fire.″

″I’m really on top of the world right now. Why would I want to burn a hotel down? Where’s that going to get me except in jail,″ Wahlberg said.

Officers were called to the hotel around 2:30 a.m. and found the lobby filled with young people, said Sgt. Carl Yates, spokesman for the Louisville Police Department.

Two New Kids’ security guards were controlling access to the upper floors.

″In the process the guards became obnoxious to people in the lobby and were cursing the manager and desk clerk,″ Yates said.

The guards were arrested on disorderly conduct charges.

After talking with hotel security, the officers decided the arson squad should be called to investigate the fire, Yates said. An arrest warrant was issued for Wahlberg.

Lydia Sherwood, a spokeswoman for Susan Blond Inc., the publicity firm representing the New Kids, said all New Kids performances will continue as scheduled.

Last summer, authorities reported that Wahlberg was involved in a scuffle with a fellow passenger over an airline seat during a flight from Salt Lake City to Atlanta.

At the 1990 American Music Awards, the group won the favorite pop-rock album trophy for their ″Hangin’ Tough″ LP and were named favorite pop-rock group.

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