CHARLESTON -- A man accused of setting fire to a building housing a Charleston tavern, and trying to kill a man inside it, pleaded not guilty to arson and attempted murder charges Monday.
The attorney representing Brian T. Griffin entered the plea on his behalf in the case in which Griffin is accused of setting the Feb. 16 fire that destroyed the building housing Mother's tavern as well as second-floor apartments.
Griffin, 29, whose most recent address on record is an apartment at 1607 10th St., Charleston, was identified by police as the suspect about a week after the fire at 506 Monroe Ave.
Police have said the likely motive of the fire was because of an argument between Griffin and his wife and two men the day before the fire.
One of those men, Luther Holden, is listed as the alleged victim in the attempted murder charge against Griffin.
On Monday, no new details of the investigation that led to Griffin's arrest were made public.
Defense attorney Sean Britton said Griffin was willing to waive his right to a preliminary hearing on the charges.
That meant Coles County Assistant State's Attorney Tom Bucher didn't have to present police testimony about the investigation to tie Griffin to the crime.
Britton also entered a jury trial request on Griffin's behalf. Circuit Judge Brien O'Brien didn't set a trial date but agreed to schedule a hearing on May 21 to review the status of the case.
Each of the charges against Griffin would require a prison sentence of six to 30 years if there's a conviction. He remains in custody with his bond set at a level requiring $75,000 to be posted for his release from jail.
Griffin was first charged with aggravated arson the week after the fire and the attempted murder charge was added on March 29.
Asked about the additional charge Monday, Bucher said he decided to add it after seeing reports that indicated that Holden told police that Griffin said he was going to kill him.
Bucher said he felt that fulfilled the "intent to kill" requirement of the attempted murder offense. The charge accuses Griffin of knowing Holden was in the building sleeping and that the fire could cause Holden's or another person's death.
The aggravated arson charge alleges that Griffin set the fire when he knew or should have known people were there.
Holden and another man, Willie Grady, had orders of protection against Griffin around the time of the fire.
According to records in those cases, Holden claimed Griffin "tried killing” him and “tried to burn me alive."
Also, Charleston police Detective Tony West said surveillance footage showed Griffin purchasing gasoline at the Huck's gas station in Charleston and then heading in and out of the Mother's building about a block away around the time of the fire.
Also according to West, Griffin indicated he would turn himself in after he was charged with the fire. He wasn't arrested until March 28, when he was located in Chicago, however.