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Hereford House Convictions Upheld By Appeals Court

Dan Verbeck

A federal appeals court has upheld the convictions and sentences of three men found guilty of torching the landmark Hereford House restaurant in October 2008.

The 8th U.S. Court of Appeals on Thursday rejected the claims of restaurant co-owner Rodney J. Anderson and his two co-defendants, Vincent Pisciotta, and Mark A. Sorrentino.

In September 2013, a federal judge sentenced Anderson, a well-known civic leader, to 15 years in prison. Pisciotta received a 20-year sentence and Sorrentino a 15-year sentence.

On appeal, the three claimed their convictions ran afoul of the Constitution’s double jeopardy clause, which bars prosecution twice for the same offense. In addition to being convicted of arson, the men were convicted of so-called predicate offenses, including conspiracy to commit arson and, in Anderson’s case, mail fraud.

In a 34-page opinion, a three-judge panel rejected that challenge.

The Hereford House was one of Kansas City’s best-known steakhouses. The restaurant, which opened in 1957, was located at 20th and Main streets in the Crossroads District.

On Oct. 20, 2008, an explosion ripped through the restaurant around 12:44 a.m., causing extensive damage.

Surveillance footage showed an individual entering the restaurant’s front door and opening the back entrance to two other individuals. The two, later identified as Pisciotta and Sorrentino, were seen unloading 14 jugs of gasoline throughout the restaurant. An ignition device was set, triggering the explosion.

Evidence at the men’s trial showed that the restaurant had been struggling and that Anderson had injected $380,000 in the business in the 10 months preceding the fire. After the fire, Anderson filed insurance claims totaling $2.4 million.

Dan Margolies, editor of the Heartland Health Monitor team, is based at KCUR.

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