LEWISTON – Two 12-year-old boys charged with setting separate fires that displaced nearly 200 residents in a densely populated section of downtown Lewiston each appeared in open court for the first time Monday and denied committing the arsons.
Brody Covey, who lived at 109 Blake St., Apt. 1, before it burned on April 29, faces three counts of arson. The fire on Blake Street spread to two buildings on Bates and Pine streets, destroying them all.
Abdi Ibrahim of 287 Bates St., according to court records, is charged with four counts of arson for a May 2 fire he is accused of starting in a garage behind 149 Bartlett St. that quickly spread to four adjacent apartment buildings.
The boys, who appeared at separate juvenile hearings in Lewiston District Court, said little as they sat between their parents and attorneys. Each identified himself and said “deny” when asked by Judge John Beliveau how he answered the charges.
The judge ordered Brody held in juvenile detention pending an evaluation. He ordered Abdi also held in juvenile detention but mentioned no evaluation.
Brody appeared first, dressed in a red sleeveless shirt and shiny black shorts. He whispered with his attorney, Allan Lobozzo, briefly before the boy’s mother, Jessica Reilly and stepfather, Charles Epps, came into the courtroom and sat to his left. Lobozzo patted him on the back as the hearing ended, and his mother kissed him on the head.
Abdi, dressed in an orange T-shirt and jeans, stopped paying attention at one point during his hearing and stared at the ceiling of the courtroom, drawing a reprimand from the judge.
“Abdi, you’ve got to eyeball me, OK buddy?” Beliveau said.
Abdi speaks English and whispered with his attorney, Jeffrey Dolley, but his parents, Marian Ibrahim and Yussef Abdi, used a Somali translator to tell them what was being said at the hearing.
Though both Brody and Abdi are juveniles, state law allows the court proceedings against them to be held in open court because of the seriousness of the charges, which would be class A felonies if they were charged as adults.
The prosecutor in both boys’ cases, Androscoggin County Assistant District Attorney Melanie Portas, declined to say whether she would seek to have either boy tried as an adult, which would require a special hearing before a judge.
“It’s not likely, based on his age and lack of criminal history,” Portas said briefly, before the media was ordered out of the courtroom as another juvenile matter began.
Authorities have drawn no connection between the two fires and the fact that the boys accused of starting them are both 12 years old.
It also appears to be coincidence that the parents of both boys faced eviction from their apartments just days before the boys were accused of setting the fires that spread fear in the neighborhood.
Court records show that Abdi’s mother had been served a complaint in April seeking to have her forcibly removed from her Bates Street apartment for allegedly starting a fire in Unit 8 of that building on March 18.
The complaint filed on behalf of the owners of 287 Bates St. says the “fire was started intentionally,” causing the sprinklers to deploy.
That eviction complaint, however, was dismissed after Marian Ibrahim went to court on May 7 for a hearing on the matter, court records show.
Attorney John Conway, who represents the company that owns 287 Bates St., said to his knowledge no one has been charged with the March 18 fire and that Ibrahim had agreed to terminate her lease.
“They had already moved out because there had been damage to the whole building,” Conway said. “I don’t have any information on where they moved, all I know is that they moved.”
It is unclear if Adbi and his mother had moved to one of the buildings he is accused of burning.
Court records show Brody’s mother received a complaint seeking to have her forcibly removed from the apartment leased in Epps’ name just days before the April 29 fire.
She and Epps were scheduled to appear in court May 8 for a hearing on that forcible eviction request, but lawyers never followed through with the hearing because the building was destroyed.