FARMINGTON — A man who police say set a fire that caused more than $45,000 worth of damage is demanding prosecutors hold a probable cause hearing against him before the case is heard in district court.
Raymond Montano, 43, was arrested Oct. 1 on suspicion of intentionally starting a fire at 707 Poplar St. in south Farmington. He is charged with second-degree felony arson for allegedly starting the fire, which destroyed two vacant mobile homes, two sheds and a camper, according to court documents.
Police arrested him at the scene of the fire, where he was staring at the destroyed property, according to court documents.
Montano's aunt, who lives near the site of the alleged arson, told police that Montano talked to her the night before and said he was going to set the fire. She said Montano also told her that he set a previous fire in the south Farmington neighborhood, according to court documents.
Montano's court proceedings were delayed after his original public defender questioned his mental competency.
Montano was found competent after meeting with mental health professionals at the public defender's office in Aztec, said Eric Morrow, Montano's current attorney.
To be competent to stand trial, a defendant must be able to assist the defense attorney and understand the charges against him, Morrow said.
Montano appeared in court for a scheduled preliminary hearing on Wednesday. Magistrate Judge Stanley King continued the case for two weeks because the primary witness for the prosecution wasn't available. Montano's hearing is set for March 12.
Morrow said Montano won't waive his preliminary hearing, where prosecutors must show there is probable cause the defendant committed the crime.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Brent Capshaw said defendants in San Juan County criminal cases often waive their preliminary hearings in exchange for leniency, such as an agreement not to hold a prior conviction against the defendant.
"He wants to say he's innocent, wrongly accused and he's not giving the state an inch," Morrow said.
Morrow asked King to release Montano from custody. He has been at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center since his Oct. 1 arrest.
King reduced his bond to $7,500.
When Farmington police arrested Montano, they said he was a suspect in several other suspicious fires in the same part of town.
There were three other fires at vacant trailers on Sycamore Street, South Monterey Avenue and South Butler Street in August and September that caused more than $80,000 worth of damage, according to Farmington Fire Department records.
Police never charged Montano in connection to those fires.
"Police, by their nature, suspect everybody. But the proof is in the pudding," Morrow said. "They never filed additional charges, so their suspicions were bogus. Actions speak louder than words."Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.