AUGUSTA — The attorney of a man charged with setting fire to the Grandview Topless Coffee Shop says DNA evidence on a gas can used in setting the fire does not match the accused.

The arson trial of Raymond Bellavance might be held in December, a judge told his attorney and the state prosecutor Tuesday.

Justice Michaela Murphy said she considers it a priority case and expects it to be ready to go to trial in December in Kennebec County Superior Court.

Another pre-trial hearing in the case is set for today, when defense attorney Andrews Campbell, who was recently appointed to represent Bellavance, told the judge he expects to bring an arson expert.

After Tuesday’s brief hearing, Campbell said his client claims “absolute innocence.”

“There is DNA evidence on the gas can which is not his,” Campbell said. “You figure it out. Maybe it’s the person who set the fire.”

Murphy recently refused to dismiss an indictment against Bellavance, 50, that charges him with two counts of arson in the June 3, 2009, fire that leveled the Vassalboro business.

She had ordered that both the prosecutor and the defense attorney confer with her before today’s hearing before she issued an order requiring the state “to scrupulously ensure that all exculpatory evidence known to any law enforcement agency involved in the case has been disclosed.”

She also said the state must inventory all reports, exhibits and recordings in the case. She wrote that she’ll set a deadline for that information to be given to the defense.

On Tuesday, Bellavance clearly expected more courtroom discussion involving his case.

When Campbell and the prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Alan Kelley, went to meet with the judge in chambers, Bellavance, who was sitting with a half dozen other inmates on benches along one wall of the courtroom, raised his voice to tell his attorney, “If this is about me, I want to be present.”

When the judge returned to the bench after a few minutes, she told Bellavance they had conferred only about scheduling and that more substantive issues — such as when the state would be providing its evidence to the defense — would be dealt with at today’s 1 p.m. hearing.

An affidavit compiled by Kenneth MacMaster of the State Fire Marshal’s Office says Bellavance set the fire because he was angry about his girlfriend waitressing there and carrying on an affair with the shop’s owner, Donald Crabtree.

The affidavit says Bellavance made statements that he was going to burn the Grand View Topless Coffee Shop and that after the fire, he claimed he did it.

Bellavance has been jailed since his arrest 16 months ago in South Carolina.

One charge says he deliberately set the fire to cause damage; the other says he recklessly endangered a person or property.

Crabtree and six others, including two babies, were sleeping in a room connected to the coffee shop at the time of the fire. All escaped when passersby noticed the fire and woke them up.

Crabtree on Tuesday said he closed the business last week. He had been operating the coffee shop from a trailer on the property as he rebuilt the structure which had formerly been a motel and restaurant.

He did not carry insurance on the structure, building it with his own money. “I didn’t owe a penny on it,” he said.

However, he said he plans to sell the Vassalboro property and move out of town.

“I’m all done with it,” he said. “I’ve lost interest in it.”

Crabtree said his former employees found other jobs.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

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