LEWISTON — A teenage boy who faces four felony arson charges in downtown apartment building fires is seeking to have a judge throw out his confession.

A hearing on his motion is expected to be held in 8th District Court in January, according to a judge’s order released Tuesday.

Abdi Ibrahim, 14, is being held at Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland. He had been placed in a residential facility but was returned to the juvenile center around the same time he was found competent to stand trial last month.

Judge Rick Lawrence signed an order Tuesday following a pretrial conference held a day earlier.

Prosecutors expect to present two witnesses at the suppression hearing. The defense expects to present as many as four witnesses, including an expert on the interpretation of the spoken Somali language, according to Lawrence’s order.

Lawrence ordered a Somali interpreter to attend the hearing to serve as interpreter for Ibrahim’s parents, Yussuf Ali and Marian Ibrahim. The hearing is expected to be held over two half-day morning sessions.


Ibrahim is facing motions to revoke his probation as well as charges of criminal threatening and theft. Court proceedings related to those charges will be held separately from and after the arson charges, Lawrence wrote.

Lawrence ruled last month that Ibrahim is competent to stand trial on the four arson charges.

In January, the case was suspended after another judge decided the state hadn’t met its burden to prove the Lewiston boy was competent to stand trial. Judge John Beliveau had found there was reason to believe Ibrahim could become competent and had ordered a follow-up psychiatric evaluation that was held in two parts in March.

A hearing was held Aug. 4 that included testimony, resulting in a ruling of competence.

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, displacing scores of tenants. He was 12 years old at the time.

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.


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

Defense attorney Jeffrey Dolley filed a motion to suppress statements Ibrahim made to law enforcement interviewers in the days following the fire but, since the case had been suspended pending competency, that motion hadn’t been heard.

According to court records, Ibrahim was 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 on the day of the fires at Bartlett and Pierce streets, 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 on Bartlett Street 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.

In a similar case, Brody Covey, also 12 years old at the time and from Lewiston, was charged with three counts of arson in fires that destroyed three apartment buildings on Blake, Bates and Pine streets on April 29, 2013, just days before the fires that led to Ibrahim’s charges.

The charges against Covey were dismissed after a judge threw out his confessions to police and to his mother, ruling that he had not been properly read his Miranda warning while in custody.

Covey lived in the Blake Street building, which had been condemned by the city. He has since been placed in a foster home outside Lewiston.


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