R.I. student photographer could face jail time for setting fire

RHODE ISLAND — A student photojournalist at BryantCollege was charged with felony arson after he allegedly lit a dormitory tableon fire with lighter fluid to stage a photograph promoting fire safety thatappeared in the student newspaper in April. Bryon Little, a staffphotographer for The Archway, and Stephen Neves, another suspect who isunaffiliated with the newspaper, could face six years to life in prison ifconvicted of the felony charge, said Detective Sgt. Ken Brown with theSmithfield Police Department. Little was provided a photo credit for thephotograph of a burning table, which ran as the “Photo of the Week,”in the April 25 issue of the biweekly paper. The staged photograph was relatedto an article published in an earlier issue that reported that theschool’s new fire code prohibits posters in walkways, stairways, exits,hallways and areas of assembly. The photo’s accompanying captionread: “After The Archway’s coverage of the new firecodes, we thought it might be interesting to display one student’sapparent disregard for such rules. The Archway does not condone suchbehavior, but this did occur in a building on campus, and thus we thought wewould show it here.” Brown said officers investigated the fireafter seeing the photograph in The Archway. They were able toidentify Little’s dorm room as the location of the fire because of thebackground in the photograph, he said. Little and Neves turnedthemselves in to police on May 23 and were released on $500 bail later that day.A date has not been set for the grand jury hearing, Brown said. Neither studentcould be reached for comment.Brown said Little’s status as astudent journalist did not shield him from being prosecuted.“Because it was in the paper, that wouldn’t be a reason tochange the charge,” Brown said. “The purpose has nothing to do withit. [They] willfully set fire inside an occupied dormitory.”No onewas injured during the fire, and there was no significant damage to thedormitory, Brown said.Renee Buisson, spokesperson for the college, saidthe students also could be punished by the school. Punitive action has not beendetermined, but she said it could range from reprimand to expulsion.The Archway, which is an independent newspaper, will not be heldresponsible for Little’s actions, she said. “The schoolsupports the editorial policies of the newspaper and will not be taking anyaction with the newspaper for the publication of the photo of the fire,”Buisson said. Buisson refused to comment on whether Little is stillworking for The Archway. Editors at The Archway did notrespond to phone calls and an email requesting comment.