Hampton man pleads guilty to arson in federal court

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
GREENEVILLE -- A Hampton man entered a guilty plea in federal court on Tuesday to charges that he set seven fires in the winter of 2001 that burned more than 26 acres of land in the Cherokee National Forest.
Adrian Eugene Hopson pled guilty to one count of arson Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Greeneville.
He faces a maximum sentence of $250,000 and five years in prison. A sentencing hearing for Hopson has been scheduled for Nov. 24.
According to court documents, a radio tower worker arrived on Holston Mountain Road in the Cherokee National Forest at approximately 6:30 a.m. on Dec. 5, 2001 and immediately noticed a fog on the mountain which turned out to be smoke from several fires.
Prosecutors in the case claim the worker observed Hopson driving toward him in a blue vehicle from the south end of the dead-end road. His brother, Gary Hopson, was a passenger in the vehicle. The worker spoke to the men about the fires and reported the license plate number of the vehicle to authorities.
According to prosecutors, Adrian Hopson asked Gary Hopson to stop the car about every quarter mile, then Adrian would exit the vehicle, pile leaves and brush together and ignite them.
"When Gary asked his brother what he was doing, Adrian replied 'Burning the mountain down,'" court records state. "Gary asked why, to which Adrian replied, 'Because I can.'"
Adrian Hopson had been consuming alcoholic beverages the previous evening and on the morning of Dec. 5, according to case prosecutors.
The fires burned 26.25 acres of land in the forest and cost an estimated $13,000 to extinguish.
Gary Hopson, who was charged with aiding and abetting arson, is scheduled to go on trial later this month.