Man enters Alford plea for setting May fires

2013-12-21T10:42:00Z 2013-12-21T23:13:05Z Man enters Alford plea for setting May firesThe Associated Press The Associated Press
December 21, 2013 10:42 am  • 

A 19-year-old East Helena man who was charged with setting numerous fires in the Helena area in May has pleaded guilty to two counts of arson.

Fredrick J. Maw V entered his Alford pleas in District Court in Helena on Thursday, telling the judge he doesn’t remember what happened. Under an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges prosecutors have enough evidence to gain a conviction.

The 20 fires were set in the Priest Pass area May 10, the McMaster Ranch area of the Spokane Hills May 14 and the York-Nelson area May 15.

Maw was arrested after he was found at the York-Nelson scene in full firefighting gear, holding a trigger-operated lighter. After initially claiming to be a contract firefighter, he confessed to starting the fires, according to prosecutors.

In an interview with a detective, he suggested he wanted to then fight the fires, because of the camaraderie of firefighting and his desire for a financial payoff, according to prosecutors.

The U.S. Forest Service has estimated the costs of fighting the fires at more than $1 million.

Lewis and Clark County Attorney Leo Gallagher says he will recommend Maw be sentenced to 40 years in prison with 30 suspended. Sentencing is set for Feb. 14.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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