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Confession in massive Utah fire should be tossed, attorney says

First Published      Last Updated Dec 15 2014 10:01 pm

The alleged confession of the man accused of starting a fire that caused $6 million in damage to a Salt Lake City apartment building that was under construction should be tossed out of court, his attorney argued Monday.

The attorney for Dustin Jay Bowman told a U.S. District Court judge on Monday that during an interview with investigators, Bowman was not adequately informed of his rights and was coerced into confessing that he started the Feb. 9 fire that burned the 64,000-square-foot project at 550 E. 500 South in Salt Lake City.

Jaime Zenger, the court-appointed attorney for Bowman, said the admitted drug addict was intimidated by the investigators during two interviews and felt he was not being allowed to leave the Salt Lake City Public Safety Building. An agent also lied to Bowman about having a number of informants who named him as the suspect, she said.

"This entire interview was coerced," Zenger said in a hearing before Judge Ted Stewart.

Bowman confessed to local and federal investigators that he had smoked spice and then started the four-alarm fire that sent flames and smoke billowing into the night sky, according to court filings. He was arrested and charged with arson after the alleged confession.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Vincent admitted that Bowman was not adequately informed of his rights, known as a Miranda warning, by a local fire investigator who was questioning the electrician. But Vincent told Stewart there were other factors to consider, including that Bowman had contacted investigators himself and offered to talk to them.

"Over and over he said, 'I'm here for you guys and I want to help,' " said Vincent, who said Bowman was provided a written Miranda warning.

Stewart said he would take the arguments under advisement and issue a decision soon.

If convicted, Bowman faces aces a potential penalty of up to 20 years in prison, with a five-year mandatory minimum sentence.