LITTLE ROCK—A Little Rock man was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for arson. United States District Judge Lee P. Rudofsky sentenced Trent Tyrone Smith, age 50, late Monday to the maximum sentence allowable under the federal statute based upon both his crimes in this case and his history of violence. Smith was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release.
“A maximum sentence was sought in this case because both the victim and the public deserve to be safe from this defendant for as long as the law would allow,” said Jonathan D. Ross, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. “Given this defendant’s depraved crimes in the present case and his violent criminal history, we are grateful that the Court agreed with our request for the maximum sentence and sentenced this defendant to 20 years in federal prison. Protecting victims and the public from violent criminals is our office’s number one priority, and so our office will not hesitate to continue to seek maximum prison sentences against criminals who use violence to destroy lives, businesses, and our fundamental right to safety.”
On March 3, 2022, the Little Rock Fire Department (“LRFD”) responded to several calls for service at two separate locations of The Grind Coffee Bistro: Pleasant Ridge Town Center, Cantrell Road, and East 21st Street, both in Little Rock, Arkansas. At the Pleasant Ridge Town Center location, the LRFD responded to a water flow alarm but were unable to locate the source. A water flow alarm is indicative a fire suppression sprinkler system is activated. Shortly thereafter, a fire was reported at the intersection of East 21st and Commerce Streets. Upon arrival of the LRFD, they found the front door locked but observed The Grind Coffee Bistro on fire and smoke in the windows of the business.
The LRFD responded a second time to The Grind Coffee Bistro’s location in the Pleasant Ridge Town Center later in the evening. Upon arrival, they could see smoke emitting from the business. The firefighters were able to enter through the unlocked front door of the business and observed two fires in the kitchen and one in the storage room. While extinguishing the fire, they located an overturned can of gas in the bathroom, which was similar to the two 2-gallon Scepter-brand gas cans Smith purchased from Walmart’s East McCain Boulevard location.
An investigation revealed that the owner (victim) of The Grind Coffee Bistro had recently ended her relationship with Smith. On February 26, 2022, Smith physically assaulted the victim. The following day, the victim changed the locks and Smith removed his personal belongings from the residence. On the same day as the fires, Smith attempted to contact the victim several times in the afternoon, and later that day, the juvenile son of the victim called his mother to advise her that their residence had been shot at, although it was later determined that an unknown object was used to strike the window. The victim returned to her residence at that time.
Through the investigation, it was learned that spare keys to the business were missing. It was also learned that Smith, who is on parole, drove a gold Buick Lacrosse that is registered to his mother. In a review of surveillance footage from the business’s Cantrell location, Smith is observed at the location from 9:21 p.m. until 9:43 p.m. and approximately one minute later, the LRFD was notified of a water flow activation alarm. The Fire Department was dispatched to a fire at the East 21st Street location, approximately 19 minutes after Smith departed the Cantrell location.
Smith has a substantial and violent criminal history. He was convicted in 2016 in Saline County for aggravated assault on a family or household member and terroristic threatening in the first degree after he attacked a victim, threatened to kill her, and drove a car into the residence attempting to strike her. Smith fled to Kentucky where he fled from law enforcement at speeds of 110 miles per hour and ultimately almost struck multiple officers with his vehicle, for which he was convicted of first-degree wanton endangerment. Smith also had prior convictions for aggravated assault and second-degree battery for an incident where multiple officers were injured, battery in the third degree involving domestic violence, and unlawfully possessing a firearm.
During the sentencing, the victim told the Court how hard she worked to build these businesses as a single mother and spoke about the violence inflicted by Smith against her. The victim indicated that she hoped to protect others from Smith by coming forward to speak.
Smith was indicted by a federal grand jury on April 5, 2022, in a two-count indictment charging him with use of a fire/explosive to damage or destroy property with injury to persons. He pleaded guilty to one count on July 25, 2023, and the remaining count was dismissed.
The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
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