Skip to comments.Arson Trial Set for Heber Motel Owner [Fake Hate-Crime]
Posted on 05/04/2003 9:49:20 AM PDT by Excuse_My_Bellicosity
A Heber City motel owner accused of setting his business ablaze and portraying it as a hate crime will stand trial on first-degree felony aggravated arson charges, a 4th District judge has ruled.
Prosecutors allege Mazhar Tabesh, 39, invented a "mystery man" staying in Room 112 of the Alpine Lodge, and that he set the July 21 blaze himself in an effort to escape financial problems.
After a preliminary hearing last month, Judge Donald Eyre delayed a ruling until defense attorney Ron Yengich filed written arguments. But in a ruling filed last week, Eyre bound Tabesh over to stand trial.
An arraignment is scheduled for later this month. If convicted, Tabesh could face a sentence of up to life in prison.
Tabesh blamed the blaze on an arsonist with a post-Sept. 11 hatred for Muslims. A native of Pakistan, Tabesh is a U.S. citizen.
Sympathetic residents raised nearly $1,400 for him toward the estimated $100,000 in damage caused by the fire.
Yengich said police blew small inconsistencies in Tabesh's statement out of proportion. He said Tabesh should have smelled of gasoline if he had set the fire. Yengich also said Tabesh's financial problems proved nothing, although prosecutors say they provided a motive.
A Heber City police officer testified at Tabesh's preliminary hearing that he was losing about $5,900 a month on the motel and still owed $450,000 on the mortgage.
Police and firefighters responding to a call from Tabesh in July found a small closet fire in Room 112 and a larger blaze in an upstairs hallway. Authorities have said accelerants were used in both fires.
Prosecutors said Tabesh's fingerprints were found on a food wrapper in the room.
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