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CHARLESTON — The man accused of setting fire to and destroying the Mother's tavern building in Charleston last year is ready to "take responsibility," his attorney said Thursday.

The suspect, Brian T. Griffin, 30, pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated arson in connection with the Feb. 16, 2018 fire in the building at 506 Monroe Ave.

The building was the location of the tavern and, on its second floor, apartments where the apparent target of Griffin's action was at the time.

MOTHER FIRE 5 (02/17/18) (copy)

The second floor of Mother's Bar burns on Feb. 16, 2018.

There was no agreement Thursday on the sentence Griffin will receive in exchange for pleading guilty. Coles County Assistant State's Attorney Tom Bucher said an attempted murder charge, also in connection with the arson, will be dismissed during the sentencing hearing.

That will have no effect on the possible sentence Griffin faces, however.

During Thursday's hearing, Bucher told Circuit Judge James Glenn that, had the case gone to trial, evidence would show that Griffin set the fire and knew or should have known people were present in the structure at the time.

Defense attorney Sean Britton acknowledged that the prosecution evidence would indicate that and would be enough for a conviction.

MOTHER FIRE 1 (02/17/18)

Charleston fire and public works crews clean up a section of Monroe Avenue after fire gutted the building housing Mother's Bar and upstairs apartments Feb. 16, 2018. 

Police identified Griffin as the suspect about a week after the fire. They said the likely motive was an argument between Griffin and his wife and two men the day before the fire. One of those men is listed as the victim in the attempted murder charge.

On Thursday, Glenn scheduled Griffin's sentencing hearing for April 16. A jury trial for the case had been scheduled to begin March 12. The charge to which Griffin pleaded guilty requires a prison sentence with a conviction and the possible range will be six to 30 years.

The attempted murder charge that will be dismissed is the same classification of offense with the same sentencing range. Had Griffin been convicted of both charges, his possible sentence would still have been six to 30 years.

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After the hearing, Britton said the dismissal of the attempted murder charge did play a part in Griffin's decision to plead guilty. He said he felt the arson charge was the more appropriate one.

Griffin has "always taken responsibility" for the fire, which "was a bad mistake on his part," Britton said.

Glenn told Griffin that the sentence could include an order to pay restitution and as much as $25,000 in fines.

Bucher also said the prosecution wouldn't seek to revoke the probation sentence Griffin received for a 2015 marijuana delivery conviction.

The man named as the victim in the attempted murder charge and another man had orders of protection against Griffin about the time of the fire. According to court records, the attempted murder victim claimed Griffin "tried killing” him and “tried to burn me alive."

Charleston police said security video recordings showed Griffin buying 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.

The site where the tavern building was located remains vacant. Then-owner Brandon Bell recently sold it to Michael Day, owner of the adjacent Mike and Stan's 504 Club tavern.


2019 mug shots from the Herald & Review

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Contact Dave Fopay at (217) 238-6858. Follow him on Twitter: @FopayDave

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Dave Fopay is a reporter for the JG-TC who covers Coles County, the local court system, Charleston schools and more.

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