AUBURN — Brian Morin will serve five years for setting a fire that burned two Lewiston apartment buildings and damaged a third last year.

Androscoggin County Superior Court Justice MaryGay Kennedy sentenced Morin on Wednesday to a total of 25 years in prison with all but five years suspended. Prosecutors were seeking to have Morin serve seven years behind bars.

Brian Morin waits for his sentence to be handed down in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn on Wednesday afternoon. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

He will spend 12 years on probation when he is freed from prison. Conditions of his probation include a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, no contact with a former co-defendant, Bryan Wood Jr., 24, and no possession of incendiary devices. He also must stay away from the area of the downtown Lewiston fires.

Wood was found incompetent to stand trial and charges against him were eventually dismissed.

Should Morin violate terms of his probation, he may have to serve some or all of the remaining 20 years in prison.

Morin read a statement in court asking to be sentenced to time served since his arrest on three arson charges in May last year. This would allow him to receive the mental health treatment he needs, he said.

Morin pleaded guilty in June to three counts of arson and agreed to serve up to seven years in prison. He was one of the two remaining defendants of four charged in a spate of downtown fires. He was charged with three counts of arson stemming from a fire that destroyed two vacant apartment buildings on Bartlett Street and damaged an occupied building on Horton Street on May 6, 2013.

That fire came within eight days of two other major fires that destroyed seven other apartment buildings, displacing more than 200 tenants in all.
Two 12-year-old Lewiston boys were charged with multiple arson counts in the other downtown Lewiston fires that spring.

Three arson charges against one of the boys, Brody Covey, were dismissed after a judge threw out Covey’s confession to a police detective that he set a fire that destroyed three apartment buildings on Blake, Bates and Pine streets on April 29, 2013. The other boy, Abdi Ibrahim, was found by a judge in January not competent to stand trial on four counts of arson in a fire that burned four apartment buildings and a garage on Bartlett and Pierce streets on May 3, 2013. A judge hasn’t ruled on Ibrahim’s competency stemming from a recent court hearing on that matter.

In considering Morin’s sentence, Kennedy weighed factors that would shorten and lengthen the basic sentence on the first arson count, which she pegged at 12 years in prison.

She said Morin suffered from a “very serious history of mental health problems.”

Although Morin and his family asked that he be sent to a psychiatric center instead of prison where he could be treated for his illness, Kennedy said, “I don’t have that as an option.” She called that a “sad” reality, considering there are “a lot of people like you in prison.”

After undergoing several mental health evaluations ordered by the court, Morin was deemed fit to stand trial.

Although Morin was interviewed by police three times and even wore a wire in an effort to elicit a confession from Wood, Kennedy said that cooperation was offset by his initial deflection of blame to Wood and to two imagined Somali youths.

She also pointed to an “extensive criminal history” that was worsened when Morin didn’t take his prescribed medications.

Kennedy said the 2:24 a.m. fires in the “highly congested area” of downtown Lewiston put residents in “extreme danger of loss of life.”

Although the fires caused only property damage, totaling more than $85,000, it was “truly just a miracle” that no one was injured, Kennedy said.

By his actions, Morin placed the community in fear and caused “an extremely dangerous situation,” she said.

Morin read from a handwritten letter, urging Kennedy to allow him to get the help he needs to treat his mental illness and to be a father to his 8-year-old daughter, Rachel.

“I realize I need to smarten up and straighten my life out,” he said.

He said he aimed to go to college to become an automobile designer and a businessman “in the real world.”

He said he wanted to raise a “happy, loving family” and “will never hang out with people (like his former co-defendant) who likes to set fires.”

“Please give me that one chance to prove myself to you,” he said. “I won’t make you look bad.”

Police said the fires were motivated by Morin being “sick and tired” of all the abandoned buildings in downtown Lewiston that landlords wouldn’t fix.

Morin eventually said he had served only as lookout for Wood, but later told two jail inmates that he had helped set the fires, Assistant District Attorney Andrew Matulis said.

While Kennedy sentenced Morin to 12 years with all but five years suspended on the first arson count, she imposed an eight-year sentence on the second arson count and five years on the third count of arson. She suspended all of the two latter sentences but required they be served consecutively, if he violates probation.

Police investigators said Morin told them that he and Wood stood on a street corner and talked about setting the buildings on fire. He said the two walked to the rear of one of the buildings where Wood pulled from his coat pocket a can of Butane lighter fluid.

Morin said Wood stood on the back porch of the building and sprayed the lighter fluid onto something that was black. Wood lit the lighter fluid, then went to a second building, Morin said.

Morin said he took a cushion from a couch at the rear of the second building and put it on the deck at the stairs that led to the ground. He said Wood sprayed lighter fluid on the cushion and lit it using a black Butane lighter that belonged to Wood’s girlfriend. Morin said Wood threw a second cushion on the first one.

The two then left.

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