Justin Arens, one of the defendants charged with setting fire to an abandoned building on South University Avenue less than two months ago waived his right to a preliminary examination Wednesday afternoon.
The 21-year-old was arrested in connection with the Oct. 24 fire that ravaged the former location of Pinball Pete’s. In addition to gutting the abandoned building, the fire caused minor damage to neighboring University Towers Apartment Complex and Momo Tea.
Before Judge J. Simpson, Karen Field, the prosecutor in the case, requested to change the charges against Arens from arson of personal property to arson of real property. She argued that the case is best covered under arson of real property because the building was technically vacant at the time of the fire.
Simpson agreed to the change, which decreased the maximum sentence from 20 years to 10 years.
Field said Arens, who had previously slept in the vacant building, knew others often spent the night there, and disregarded the danger to others when setting the fire. The fire started at around 10 p.m. that Saturday night.
Arens currently has no permanent residence, though Arens’ attorney Raymond Mullins said Arens’ mother would be willing to post a lowered bond and keep him in her home.
Mullins, moved to have the bond lowered from $100,000, but Field objected, noting Arens’ past criminal record.
Arens has previously been convicted of home invasion and retail fraud, along with a juvenile conviction of assault with the intent to commit criminal sexual conduct.
Simpson declined to lower the bond, stating that, based on his criminal history, Arens could be “detrimental to the safety of the community.”
Arens remains in custody on $100,000 bond and will appear in circuit court for a pretrial conference on Jan. 11.
Arens’ co-defendant, Ian Mackenzie, 18, is being held in custody on $50,000 bond. Mackenzie will appear in court on Jan. 4 for his pretrial conference.
Arens’ mother and friends were in the courtroom for the exam, and declined to comment following the proceedings other than to say that Arens is “an incredible guy.”