One of the defendants charged with setting fire to the former location of Pinball Pete’s on South University Avenue was convicted last week after pleading guilty to arson of real property.
In front of Washtenaw County Judge Melinda Morris, Ian MacKenzie pled guilty to one of the three original counts — arson of real property valued at over $20,000. Prosecutors dismissed the count of preparation to burn property at the hearing and also dismissed the count of arson of personal property valued at over $20,000 in December.
MacKenzie turned himself in to Ann Arbor police weeks after setting fire to the vacant building on Oct. 24, 2009. The fire devastated the building and caused minor damages to both the University Towers apartment complex and Momo Tea.
MacKenzie’s lawyer, Patrick Carmody, said in an interview that the sentencing is tentatively scheduled for March 29, though Morris has granted a possible delay at the request of the defense.
MacKenzie is asking the court to grant him Holmes Youthful Trainee Act status, which would erase his criminal record once the sentence is served.
According to Carmody, Morris denied MacKenzie’s request for Holmes Youthful Trainee Act status in January but has allowed the delay in sentencing so that MacKenzie can try to prove he won’t get involved in any further criminal activity.
“The judge has simply agreed to delay sentence and let him try,” Carmody said. “At least he’ll have the opportunity to make that showing for the court.”
Carmody said MacKenzie will either be sentenced to three years in prison or one year of either jail or probation. He also said that based on MacKenzie’s past record, which is minimal, he will likely be granted a probationary sentence.
Justin Arens, MacKenzie’s co-defendant, pled no contest to two counts of arson — including the preparation to burn and arson of real property — on Jan. 11. Prosecutors dropped the preparation to burn property charge at his sentencing on Feb. 22.
Arens’s lawyer, Raymond Mullins, spoke on his client’s behalf at the sentencing and stated that Arens’s drug and alcohol problems may have been related to the arson and that he now demonstrates a desire to refrain from using substances.
Morris sentenced Arens to 19 months to 10 years in prison, after which Arens made the decision to request a trial date to reduce his sentence. The trial is set for June 21.
The remains of the South University building were torn down in January. Property owner Dennis Tice has yet to announce any plans to develop the empty lot.