The man charged with two counts of second-degree arson in relation to a pair of fires in February has pleaded guilty to both charges against him.
Andrew Burke, 27, admitted to having set two fires - the massive inferno at 135 E. Main St. and a garage fire at 105 1/2 N. Third Ave. - willfully with the intention of destroying the buildings.
Burked pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree arson, a Class C felony. The county attorney's office reduced the greater of the two charges, which was a Class B felony.
T-R PHOTO BY DAVID ALEXANDER
Judge Micheal Moon questions Andrew Burke during his plea hearing Thursday morning at the Marshall County Courthouse. Burke pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree arson, a Class C felony. Such a charge carries with it a prison sentence not to exceed 10 years and between $1,000 and $10,000 in fines. The judge will sentence Burke Aug. 13.
Burke had little to say during his hearing Thursday morning, responding to a majority of Judge Michael Moon's questions with "Yes sir" or "No sir."
The judge asked Burke about his employment status, living arrangements and education before inquiring whether Burke understood the implications of pleading guilty to the pair of charges.
Burke told the judge he understood that he forfeited certain rights by pleading guilty and was not doing so because of any threats, deals or other arrangements.
"I find that you knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily enter this plea and understand the consequences of these charges," Moon said.
Moon added that he believed Burke to be "thinking clearly and logically" during the hearing.
If he finds fault with the judge's ruling, Burke has 45 days to file a motion in arrest of judgment. Failing to do so would result in his inability to challenge any part of the plea proceeding should he decide to file for appeal.
A Class C felony is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $1,000 to $10,000 in fines, with a 35 percent surcharge. Burke will also be ordered to pay restitution to the owners of the buildings to which he admitted to having set fire.
Ben Stansberry, assistant county attorney, said the attorney's office does not yet have the total amount of restitution for the buildings. He said the process hit a snag with the death of 135 E. Main St. owner Charles Fairall.
Overall, Stansberry said he was pleased with how the case ended.
"I am happy he accepted responsibility for his actions," Stansberry said. "It will save considerable delay and additional expenses of a trial."
Burke is also responsible for all court costs associated with his arrest.
Although any meager money Burke earns in prison through work programs will go to the building owners, the chance of him making any substantial dent in the debt while incarcerated is slim, Stansberry said. It would essentially just be something that stays with him once he is released.
Money that insurance companies have already paid the owners can not be included in the restitution amount.
"I can only figure what they are out personally," Stansberry said.
Whether Burke will serve his terms concurrent or consecutive, which could mean the difference between him serving 10 and 20 years, will be revealed at his sentencing Aug. 13.