July 23, 2013

Maine boy's arson confession inadmissible, lawyer says

He says that his 13-year-old client, a suspect in one of the Lewiston fires, was not read his Miranda rights until later.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

LEWISTON – A 13-year-old boy accused of setting one of three fires in a densely populated section of downtown Lewiston this spring was shown confessing in a video recording of a police interview that aired in court Monday.

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Fire consumes an apartment building in Lewiston on Monday, April 29. At least four apartment buildings were involved, with many more in peril. A 13-year-old boy accused of setting the fire in a densely populated section of downtown Lewiston was confesses in a video recording of a police interview that aired in court Monday, but his attorney wants the confession tossed out, saying the boy wasn't read his Miranda rights quickly enough.

AP Photo / Sun-Journal Christopher Williams

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Brody Covey is accused of starting the April 29 fire that destroyed three apartment buildings.

In the video shown during a juvenile hearing in Lewiston District Court, Covey was shown giving police two reasons for starting the fire with a lighter at his home at 109 Blake St.: the terrible conditions in the condemned building where he lived and retaliation against neighbors for calling authorities on his family.

But Covey's attorney, Allan Lobozzo, is arguing to have the confession and key statements Covey made during the interview deemed inadmissible in part because Lewiston police Detective Robert Morin did not read Covey his Miranda rights – that he needn't talk and is entitled to a lawyer -- until more than an hour and 45 minutes into the interview.

Most of the exchange between Covey and the detective took place during the first 20 minutes of the recorded interview, with the detective first asking him questions as a witness to the fire and then switching to ask him questions as a suspect.

"How do you think it started?" Morin asked.

"I don't know," Covey replied.

"How do you feel about that?" Morin asked.

"Horrible," Covey said.

With that answer, Morin paused and then shifted his line of questioning, asking Covey, "Did you set it?"

Covey denied setting the fire in answers to several more questions, but relented after Morin described his condemned home as unlivable. "Nobody deserves to live like that. My dog doesn't deserve to live like that," Morin said before Covey admitted that he lit the fire on a porch at his home with a lighter from his pocket.

Later, Covey's parents arrived at the police station and spoke with him as the video kept recording. He confessed again to his mother, Jessica Reilly, and his mother made him repeat his confession to Morin when he came back in the room.

"It was a cardboard box that was broken down. I used rubbing alcohol and put it on it," Covey said in the video.

It was only after the second confession that Morin read Covey his rights with his mother in the room.

Judge Rick Lawrence made no immediate ruling by the end of the day Monday on Lobozzo's motion to have that evidence thrown out and scheduled the hearing to resume at 9 a.m. Friday.

The fire Covey is accused of starting destroyed the building where he lived, 105-111 Blake St., and two adjacent buildings caught by the spreading flames, 172 Bates St. and 82 Pine St.

Covey, who is accused of three counts of arson, has denied committing the crimes.

A second 13-year-old boy, Abdi Ibrahim, who is accused of starting an unrelated May 3 fire in a garage between Bartlett and Pierce streets that spread and consumed four apartment buildings, also appeared in court Monday.

The judge, however, continued the case against Ibrahim until 1 p.m. Wednesday to allow his lawyer, Jeffrey Dolley, and a prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Melanie Portas, more time to review newly issued documents.

The fire Ibrahim is accused of starting destroyed 149 Bartlett St., 110 Pierce St., 114 Pierce St. and 116 Pierce St.

Ibrahim, charged with four counts of arson, has denied committing the crimes.

If they are convicted of arson, Covey and Ibrahim could be committed to a youth detention facility until they are 21. The cases against them in juvenile court were open to the public by state law because of the seriousness of the crimes against them.

Nearly 200 people lost their homes in the April 29 and May 3 fires, though no one was injured.

Both boys have remained in custody since their arrests and are currently being held at a juvenile detention center.

Two adults -- Brian Morin, 30, and Bryan Wood, 23 -- are accused of setting a third fire May 6 that destroyed two unoccupied buildings at 114 and 118 Bartlett St.

They are each charged with two counts of arson, punishable in adult court by up to 30 years in prison.

Morin has pleaded not guilty.

Wood has yet to be arraigned and has not entered a plea.

Scott Dolan can be contacted at: 791-6304 or at

sdolan@mainetoday.com

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