Accused Firefighter Claims Incompetence in Phoenix

PHOENIX (AP) -- A man accused of setting one of two wildfires that merged into a 469,000-acre blaze and destroyed nearly 500 homes this summer claims he is mentally incompetent and unfit to stand trail.

Leonard Gregg, a contract firefighter, is charged with two federal counts of arson and is jailed without bond.

He is accused of lighting a fire June 18 that merged with another blaze to become the largest in Arizona's history. According to court documents, he told an investigator he set the fire so he could get work on a firefighting crew.

The other fire was set by a lost hiker trying to signal rescuers. The hiker wasn't charged.

Gregg's attorney, Deborah Euler-Ajayi, said Gregg ``has many symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome, his mental functioning is very low, he has poor capacity for abstract thinking (and) he functions emotionally as well as intellectually at a very primitive level.''

She also said his confessions should be thrown out because he was incapable of waiving his rights when was arrested. She said he isn't competent to stand trial Jan. 7.

A hearing on Gregg's mental competence was set for Monday. An independent psychological evaluation was sealed.

Euler-Ajayi said she expects Gregg to be referred to a mental health facility for further examination and possibly for treatment to restore his mental capacity. She said it's unclear whether he will plead insanity or rely on a diminished-capacity defense.

Prosecutors declined to comment.

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