A 30-year-old homeless man who was accused of setting the third in a string of major fires in downtown Lewiston last year pleaded guilty Friday to three counts of arson as part of an agreement that caps his prison time at seven years.

Brian Morin’s pleas to the three felonies made him the first person held accountable in the fires in Lewiston’s densely populated downtown in the days from April 29 to May 6, 2013.

Initially, two 12-year-old boys were accused of acting separately to set fires on April 29 and May 3. And Bryan Wood, 24, of Lewiston was charged as Morin’s co-defendant in setting a fire May 6 that destroyed the vacant apartment buildings at 114 and 118 Bartlett St. and damaged 91 Horton St.

Two of the cases unraveled, and it remains uncertain whether the Androscoggin County District Attorney’s Office will be able to prosecute the third case successfully.

The case against Wood was the first to be dismissed. In August, a judge found him not competent to stand trial, based in part on a state psychologist’s examination that showed Wood has “mild retardation.”

The state was forced to dismiss its case against Brody Covey, who was 12 when he was accused of setting the first fire, because of a mistake by Lewiston police.

Covey told police in an interview that he started a fire on April 29, 2013, behind the condemned building at 105-111 Blake St., where he and his parents faced eviction. That fire created such fierce flames that it spread and destroyed adjacent buildings at 172 Bates St. and 82 Pine St.

A judge ruled that Covey’s confession could not be used in court because police had failed to read him his constitutional rights – that he didn’t have to talk and was entitled to a lawyer – until an hour and 45 minutes into the interrogation.

Another boy, Abdi Ibrahim, was deemed by a judge on Jan. 9 to be incompetent to stand trial, at least temporarily. His case is scheduled to be heard again in Lewiston District Court on Aug. 4, in a competency hearing to determine what will come next.

Ibrahim is accused of starting the fire on May 3 in a garage between Bartlett and Pierce streets. That fire destroyed the apartment buildings at 149 Bartlett St., 110 Pierce St., 114 Pierce St. and 116 Pierce St.

The plea agreement was reached in Morin’s case after negotiations between Assistant District Attorney Andrew Matulis and Morin’s attorney, Richard Charest. Morin’s sentence, to be imposed Aug. 6, has yet to be determined, though the terms of his plea agreement set parameters.

On the first arson charge, Morin will be given a 12-year sentence with five to all 12 years of that suspended.

On the second count, Morin will be given an eight-year suspended sentence and a four-year probation term. He will begin serving that probation term after completing the sentence on the first arson count. He could be ordered to serve the full eight years in prison if he violates the terms of his probation.

On the third arson count, Morin will receive a five-year suspended sentence and another four-year probation term. He will begin serving that probation term after finishing his sentence on the second count.

“At the end of the day, there are 25 total years that are there hanging over his head and are staggered,” Matulis said.

Arson is a felony that’s punishable by as much as 30 years in prison.

Matulis, who also was assigned to Wood’s case, would not say whether his office has been frustrated by the difficulties of prosecuting the four people charged in the high-profile arsons, which displaced nearly 200 residents and left swaths of vacant land in downtown Lewiston.

Morin was accused of setting the fire on May 6, 2013, while he was staying at Wood’s apartment at 131 Bartlett St.

Daniel Young of the state Fire Marshal’s Office said in an affidavit seeking warrants for their arrest that Morin and Wood were standing on the street corner in the early morning when they talked about setting the buildings on fire, then agreed to it.

“Brian Morin told us that he and Bryan Wood talked about burning the buildings because they were sick and tired of all the abandoned buildings in the city that were not being repaired by the landlords,” Young said in the affidavit.

In a police interview detailed in the affidavit, Morin told investigators that he served as “lookout” while Wood used butane to start a fire at the rear of 118 Bartlett St. Both used the butane to douse a cushion from a discarded couch to start the fire that destroyed 114 Bartlett St.

Wood was originally interviewed as a witness to the fire, even approaching a police officer to volunteer information, and blamed the blaze on Morin.

Morin has remained in custody since his arrest May 10, 2013. The time he has been in jail will be taken off his sentence.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: @scottddolan

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.