An oft-disciplined Twin Cities attorney has been charged with dousing his longtime girlfriend with hair spray, nail polish and nail polish remover, then setting her ablaze in his Burnsville condominium.
The woman lost an ear to the fire, set on Feb. 9, and also suffered burns to her scalp, face, neck, both legs and one hand, according to a criminal complaint filed Friday in Dakota County District Court.
David J. Gherity, 60, was charged with first-degree assault and two counts of first-degree arson. He remains jailed in lieu of $50,000 bail, with conditions.
According to the complaint:
A smoke alarm brought fire personnel to the condo in the 12600 block of Parkwood Drive. A firefighter saw the woman “on fire sitting at a table,” the complaint read.
The flames were doused, and she was rushed to Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), where she remains nearly two months later.
The woman’s sister told police that the victim left her a voice-mail message saying in a whisper that Gherity “has gone berserk. I can’t talk right now. I’ll call you later.”
The woman told Fire Department medical personnel that Gherity lit the fire. She added that she had been drinking and taking medication, then fell asleep on the couch. The next thing she knew, she awoke to the fire.
The woman, who had been Gherity’s girlfriend for about 10 years, told police she does not use hair spray, nail polish or remover.
But Gherity’s defense attorney, Robert Miller of Minneapolis, told the Associated Press that he has a video showing Gherity at work from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the day of the fire. Miller said he believes when authorities review the video “it should vindicate my client.”
Gherity arrived at HCMC smelling of smoke. Medical personnel asked Gherity whether he was caught in the fire, and he replied that he arrived at the condo later.
Gherity has a history of violent behavior and has been in trouble professionally for many years, according to records.
In 2001, he was convicted of assault in Hennepin County for kicking a girlfriend at the time while she was in the hall of her high-rise apartment.When a neighbor tried to stop him, court records continued, he chased the man to a 26th-floor balcony and pushed him to the railing. Gherity had his hands around the man’s throat and punched him, the records added.
The state Office of Lawyer’s Professional Responsibility has publicly disciplined Gherity at least four times. Citing the accumulation of incidents, the office suspended Gherity’s license in 2004.