Oct. 16--A judge has thrown out a confession made by the boy accused of setting the first of three major fires in downtown Lewiston on grounds that police did not read him his rights until more than an hour and 45 minutes into an interrogation.
The confession by Brody Covey, who was 12 at the time, that he made first to a Lewiston police detective and then to his mother on a video recorded at the police station were the key pieces of evidence that prosecutors had against him for the April 29 blaze that destroyed three apartment buildings.
Judge Rick Lawrence made his ruling on Wednesday, months after Covey's attorney, Allan Lobozzo, argued a motion in Lewiston District Court to have Covey's statements suppressed as legal evidence because police had not read him his constitutionally required Miranda rights -- that he didn't have to talk and was entitled to a lawyer.
The judge's 10-page ruling is two-pronged, finding first that Covey's confession to Lewiston Police Detective Robert Morin on May 2 is inadmissable due to the Miranda issue. The judge then ruled that Covey's confession made to his mother, Jessica Reilly, in the same police interrogation room is also inadmissable as "fruit of a poisonous tree," that though his statements to his mother were voluntary he wouldn't have made them if police hadn't made the constitutional violation.
Lobozzo called the ruling a "wholehearted victory from a legal standpoint," but leaves the question of what will next happen to Covey, who is now 13 and in state custody in an undisclosed residential setting, unclear.
"The district attorney has to make the decision, do they have a case without the confession? And clearly they do not," Lobozzo said. "And they'll have to decide whether to appeal part or all of the judge's decision."
The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Melanie Portas, did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.
Lobozzo said that since his client's arrest, Covey has excelled both academically and in his behavior. He said he wouldn't want dismissal of the criminal case to distrupt that progress.
"His home life was challenging," Lobozzo said. The state has since stepped in to take custody of his younger siblings from his mother and stepfather, Charles Epps, who is now in jail.
While Covey was living at home, he often failed to turn in assignments for school and complete his homework. While at Long Creek Youth Development Center, Covey tested in the 90th percentile for multiple school subjects for children in his age group, his attorney said.
"He's a kid who absolutely should go to college and beyond," Lobozzo said.
Covey is still charged with three counts of arson. Authorities say he started a fire on the porch behind the condemned building where he lived with his family, at 109 Blake St., and faced imminent eviction.
The fire spread and destroyed two adjacent buildings, at 172 Bates St. and 82 Pine St.
When police brought Covey to the police station to be interviewed, he was initially considered a witness not a suspect. The video of the interview, played in court in July, shows the detective making an abrupt shift in his questioning after more than eight minutes into the recording, pausing before asking Covey pointedly, "Did you set it?"
If Covey had been convicted, he could have been committed to a youth detention facility until he is 21.
That fire was followed by unrelated arson fires on May 3 and May 6 in downtown Lewiston. In total, the fires destroyed nine buildings and displaced nearly 200 people.
Abdi Ibrahim is charged with starting the fire on May 3. He also was 12 at the time of the fire, and is now 13. He has denied four counts of arson in the blaze, which destroyed four apartment buildings.
Brian Morin, 30, and Bryan Wood, 23, were accused of starting the fire on May 6 that destroyed two vacant buildings on Bartlett Street.