PORTLAND (AP) – A federal judge Thursday will hear arguments on the prison placement of a Kennebunk boy serving 30 months for burning down an Arundel boathouse, a fire that destroyed an engine belonging to former President George Bush.

After an appeal of Patrick Vorce’s sentence, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered that the sentencing judge take a more active role in determining where Vorce should be incarcerated.

Vorce, 16, is expected to appear at the closed hearing before U.S. District Judge George Singal.

Vorce is serving his time at the Cresson Secure Treatment Unit in western Pennsylvania, where his parents say he lacks access to rehabilitation programs and treatment. They are seeking to have him transferred to Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland.

While Vorce’s case originally attracted attention because of the Bush connection, it has sustained interest because it involves largely unexplored questions related to the sentencing of juveniles.

Vorce is one of fewer than 250 juveniles in the federal prison system, most of whom are American Indians who committed crimes on federal lands.

“Numerically it’s certainly a unique case,” said Suzanne Meiners of the Juvenile Law Center, a nonprofit law firm in Philadelphia that is assisting Vorce’s lawyer.

Such cases are so rare that “the federal court can find a child to be delinquent, but they don’t have a system for holding juveniles,” Meiners said. She said the appeals court’s ruling is important because the rights of juveniles in federal courts is rarely adjudicated.

Because the federal Bureau of Prisons does not operate juvenile facilities, it contracts with states to house federal juvenile inmates.

Vorce was 14 in July 2002 when he and a 19-year-old friend panicked during a robbery and set fire to Southern Maine Marine Services in Arundel.

Local authorities later referred the case to federal prosecutors. Vorce’s mother maintains that the case ended up in federal court because of the link to Bush, a claim that U.S. Attorney Paula Silsby says is false.

Silsby cited the seriousness of the crime, the high monetary damages and the destruction of federal property, since equipment belonging to the Secret Service was damaged in the blaze.

AP-ES-04-28-04 1105EDT

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