LEWISTON — A judge on Wednesday ordered the release of a 13-year-old boy charged with four counts of arson in a May 3 fire that burned four downtown apartment buildings and left nearly 100 people homeless.

Abdi Ibrahim of Lewiston was in 8th District Court for a juvenile detention hearing. Because he is charged with felonies, his court proceedings are held in public.

His attorney, Richard Charest, said a residential facility that offers programs that address the teen’s problems is the least restrictive setting for him, something required by the state’s juvenile code.

Judge Rick Lawrence agreed, provided a safety plan is in place that will protect Ibrahim as well as the community.

Charest said local police and fire officials are working with administrators at the facility to ensure safety measures are adequate. Charest declined to disclose the location of the facility.

Assistant District Attorney Melanie Portas opposed the placement, telling Lawrence that Ibrahim posed a risk to the community if released from a lockdown facility such as Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland, where the teen has been held since he was charged. He isn’t expected to be transferred to the new setting for a week.


Portas cited Ibrahim’s criminal record, which dates back to when he was 9 years old. Charges include theft, robbery, burglary and assault. In addition to the arson fires, he has been charged with criminal mischief and criminal threatening, Portas said.

She said the seriousness of the new charges, coupled with the manner in which fire investigators believe the fires were set — using gasoline on materials in a Pierce Street garage and igniting them with a lighter — was of particular concern to prosecutors.

A residential setting “cannot ensure that (Ibrahim) will not set another fire,” she told the judge.

Portas referenced a recent psychological evaluation that concluded Ibrahim suffered from poor impulse control, displayed a “significant amount of immaturity” and “under appreciates” the effect of his actions on others by showing a lack of remorse.

The evaluation concluded that Ibrahim didn’t have a “particular fascination” with fire, Portas said.

Lawrence said the new placement should meet the state’s juvenile code in considering Ibrahim’s safety and his prospects for rehabilitation. His further stay at Long Creek might have ended up being “counterproductive,” Lawrence said, if the teen were to continue living with teens who might reinforce delinquent behavior.


The new facility also should provide counseling and medications that Ibrahim might need, Lawrence said.

Among the conditions ordered by Lawrence are restrictions to prevent Ibrahim from leaving the facility’s grounds and one-on-one supervision, in addition to a personal search when he enters the setting and being subject to random personal searches for contraband.

Ibrahim was dressed in an orange T-shirt and jeans in the courtroom Wednesday, his hands cuffed and ankles shackled. A Somali woman interpreted the court proceedings for Ibrahim’s parents, who sat next to him. He hugged his family members after court adjourned, before before being escorted out by Androscoggin County deputies.

Prosecutors hadn’t decided whether they would seek to have Ibrahim tried as an adult.

The District Attorney’s Office decided not to seek to bind over to Androscoggin County Superior Court another 13-year-old boy charged with multiple arson fires in an April 29 fire that burned three apartment buildings. A motion to suppress statements made by that suspect, Brody Covey of Lewiston, is scheduled to continue Friday. 


Fires in Lewiston: Complete coverage of how the city battled a string of fires and worked to recover.

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