Charges split between two accused in Juneau arson

Posted: Thursday, November 14, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- One of the men accused of starting fire that destroyed a Juneau self-storage building over the summer won't face a felony arson charge, under a plea agreement.

A second suspect, however, is expected to plead guilty to arson, prosecutors said.

The fire destroyed 280 storage units at the Juneau Self-Storage facility and caused more than $1 million in damage. Authorities said the blaze endangered the lives of several firefighters who nearly fell into the burning building when its roof collapsed.

Michael Thomas Blevins, 22, and Cricencio Bagoyo III, 23, were arrested in connection with the fire and a separate burglary at Gastineau Human Services, both on June 2.

Blevins pleaded guilty Wednesday in Juneau Superior Court to one count of second-degree theft, a felony, stemming from the break-in at GHS, a corrections halfway house and social service agency. He also admitted to violating the conditions of his probation, a misdemeanor.

One count each of first-degree arson, felony second-degree burglary and misdemeanor possession of burglary tools were dismissed as part of a plea agreement between defense attorney Michael O'Brien and District Attorney Rick Svobodny.

Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 16.

''We felt if we took the plea it would save him some jail time,'' O'Brien told the Juneau Empire. ''He's told me the other guy (Bagoyo) set the fire and he was just part of the scheme. ... He admits to being there.''

Bagoyo is facing the same charges Blevins did before Wednesday's court hearing. Svobodny said during the hearing Bagoyo is expected to plead guilty to arson as part of a plea agreement with his attorney, assistant public defender Rob Meachum.

Svobodny declined comment on either case until after sentencing. Meachum was unavailable for comment.

Svobodny said at the hearing that Blevins and Bagoyo began June 2 by breaking into an office at GHS. The two stole more than $1,000 cash and several credit cards from a deposit bag before crossing the street to the Juneau Self-Storage unit, Svobodny said.

O'Brien said Blevins maintains he never intended to set a fire and didn't know it was part of the plan. But Bagoyo found lighter fluid and decided to torch the facility to cover up fingerprints they may have left in the building, O'Brien said.

The next day Blevins was arrested by police while trying to cross into Canada. Bagoyo also was arrested June 3 in New York and extradited to Juneau, Svobodny said.

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