AUGUSTA — The man charged with burning down a topless coffee shop in Vassalboro wants his trial moved out of Kennebec County, saying pretrial publicity will make it too difficult to seat an unbiased jury.

Raymond Bellavance Jr., 49, of Winthrop is charged with two counts of arson in the fire that leveled the Grand View Topless Coffee Shop on June 3, 2009.

At a hearing Monday in Kennebec County Superior Court, Bellavance’s attorney, Robert Ruffner, gave the judge eight editions of the Kennebec Journal published from April 10 to July 29 that featured stories about Bellavance.

“My client would be prejudiced by trying to have the trial in Kennebec County because of the media attention,” Ruffner told Justice Robert Murray.

At one point Monday, Bellavance riffled through the newspapers and pointed out the first sentence of a story published May 22, so Ruffner could read it to the judge: “Raymond Bellavance burned down the Grand View Topless Coffee Shop in Vassalboro because he was angry his girlfriend was waitressing and carrying on an affair with the shop’s owner, according to an investigator’s affidavit released Friday.”

Bellavance’s name came up early in the arson investigation, according to an affidavit by state Fire Marshal’s Office investigator Kenneth MacMaster. Bellavance was not formally charged until he was indicted by a grand jury on July 1, almost 13 months after the fire.

The coffee shop’s owner, Donald Crabtree, and six others, including two babies, were sleeping in a room connected to the shop at the time of the fire. Everyone escaped uninjured after passers-by noticed the fire and awakened them.

“This case is unique, not so much for the coverage of the case, (but) more for the nature of the structure that was burned,” Ruffner said. “Before this structure was burned, it received worldwide media attention shortly after it opened, and was in the media to a great extent just before the fire occurred.”

The prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Alan Kelley, objected to moving the trial to another county, saying that almost every case goes to trial in the county where the alleged offenses occur, and that this trial would involve a number of witnesses.

Kelley said Ruffner’s request was premature. “There’s been no attempt to pick a jury,” he said.

Kelley agreed that the case has received a lot of publicity, but not as much as other recent cases in Kennebec County.

“It’s a case that is notable for who the victim is, rather than the defendant or nature of crime,” Kelley said. “The victim is a topless coffee shop.”

Murray said he will rule later on the request to relocate the trial.