LEWISTON — An arson case against 13-year-old Abdi Ibrahim of Lewiston has been suspended by court order after Justice John Beliveau found the state had not met its burden proving that the boy is competent to stand trial.

Ibrahim was charged with four counts of arson stemming from fires that burned four apartment buildings and a garage on Bartlett and Pierce streets on May 3, 2013.

Last week, Ibrahim, along with attorney Jeffrey Dolley, his parents and an interpreter, appeared at a competency hearing in 8th District Court in Lewiston to hear testimony of psychologist Peter Donnelly regarding Ibrahim’s mental status.

Ibrahim was evaluated by the State Forensic Service in May 2013 and the court received that report in July of that year. In October 2013, a competency hearing was ordered. That hearing, which was closed to the public, was held Jan. 7.

The findings of fact presented at that hearing are sealed because, according to the order suspending the case, “they contain significant confidential mental health information pertinent only to the question of the juvenile’s competency.”

After reviewing Donnelly’s report, hearing his testimony and observing Ibrahim in court, Beliveau ruled the state did not meet its burden to prove Ibrahim was competent to stand trial “at this time.”

However, Beliveau added, “There is a substantial probability that the juvenile will be competent in the foreseeable future,” and he ordered the case to remain suspended and referred Ibrahim to the continued custody of the state Department of Health and Human Services for evaluation of treatment of mental health and behavioral services.

Ibrahim is being housed and treated at an undisclosed residential facility outside of Lewiston.

Beliveau also ordered that Ibrahim be re-examined by the State Forensic Service within 60 days. A report of that evaluation will be used by the court in future proceedings.

A report by a state fire investigator said Ibrahim had confessed to setting a fire at the back of a three-bay garage behind an apartment building at 149 Bartlett St. on the night of May 3, 2013.

After initially denying he was involved, Ibrahim later said he started the fire alone by lighting a cigarette and paper with a lighter, using gasoline as an accelerant.

Before last week’s competency hearing, Dolley had resisted a motion filed by Assistant District Attorney Melanie Portas to amend the court’s order for a diagnostic evaluation of Ibrahim to include his “emotional attitude and pattern of living” in addition to mental health issues, substance abuse and immaturity, arguing that prosecutors are seeking that information to help them decide whether to seek to bind him over to Androscoggin County Superior Court, where he would be tried as an adult.

Dolley had argued that Ibrahim can’t be forced to give the state information that could jeopardize his freedom.

Dolley has also filed a motion to suppress statements Ibrahim made to law-enforcement interviewers in the days following the fire.

There has not yet been a ruling on that suppression motion.

According to court records, Ibrahim had been interviewed at the Lewiston Police Department with his mother, Marian, who was assisted by an interpreter over the phone. He waived his Miranda rights, including his right to remain silent, according to a report by Christopher Sanford, an investigator at the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

In his motion, Dolley argued that any statements made by Ibrahim were not voluntary. “Any Miranda warnings that may have been given were not provided in a manner that would be adequate for the juvenile, under his circumstances, to enable him to freely and voluntarily waive his Miranda rights,” Dolley wrote.

According to investigators, Ibrahim said two other juveniles were with him at the time, but he was the one who started the fire. He drew a diagram of the scene for them.

The other two boys were questioned later. They said they had gone to the garage with Ibrahim after school, but waited outside or just inside the door while Ibrahim went to the back of the garage.

One of the boys said he could see Ibrahim sitting at the far end, smoke coming from his mouth and hand. About half an hour later, the three boys left, one of the boys said.

Investigators used a dog trained to sniff out the scent of liquid accelerant. The dog detected accelerant on Ibrahim’s shoes, which were collected by police as evidence before his interview at the police station.

No accelerant was detected on the shoes of the other two boys, according to Sanford’s report.

According to court records, Ibrahim described the inside of the garage for Sanford and a Lewiston police detective, who said Ibrahim’s description of the interior and its contents matched that given by investigators during their examination of the scene.

Ibrahim is one of four Lewiston residents charged in connection with the spree of arsons last spring.

Three counts of arson filed against Bryan Wood, 23, have been dismissed. He had been charged with setting fires that destroyed two apartment buildings on Bartlett Street and one building on Horton Street on May 6, 2013.

A judge later ruled that, based on his low IQ and inability to fully understand the criminal proceedings against him, he should be released to the custody of the commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, who, in turn, would free him.

Brian Morin, 30, also was charged with three counts of arson stemming from the same fires.

Morin has undergone three psychological exams: one to determine whether he was competent to assist in his defense, a second to determine his state of mind at the time of the fires and a third to provide a more complete picture of his mental state, according to Morin’s attorney, Richard Charest.

He is awaiting the results of the most recent exam, Charest said. A competency hearing is likely once that report is complete. Charest filed a motion to suppress statements Morin made to police and evidence police collected in the days following the fires.

No trial date has been set.

And 13-year-old Brody Covey, who has been charged with three counts of arson in connection with fires that destroyed three apartment buildings on Blake, Bates and Pine streets on April 29, 2013, is awaiting trial.

Covey lived in the Blake Street building, which had been condemned by the city.

This past fall, the court ruled Covey’s confessions to a police detective and his mother weren’t admissible at trial because he was in police custody but hadn’t been read the Miranda warning. Both confessions have been suppressed.

Although the Androscoggin County District Attorney’s Office strongly urged the Maine Attorney General’s Office to appeal the judge’s order to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills declined.

It remains to be seen whether District Attorney Norman Croteau will continue with his case against Covey. Little physical evidence from the fire remains because it burned so fast and hot.

This past December, Croteau said he would review the remaining evidence with the assistant district attorney assigned to the case and decide whether to move forward with the charges.


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