FARMINGTON — A Farmington man accused of burning down an abandoned mobile home pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor on Wednesday and was sentenced to probation.
Raymond Montano, 43, was arrested Oct. 1 on suspicion of intentionally setting fire to a home at 707 Poplar St. The fire caused about $45,000 of damage, and Montano was charged with second-degree felony arson, according to court documents. A second-degree felony is punishable by up to nine years in prison.
Montano's case was delayed after his original public defender questioned if Montano was competent to stand trial. He has been in custody since his arrest.
He was scheduled to have a preliminary hearing on Wednesday, which is when the plea agreement was finalized. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor arson and was sentenced to supervised probation.
San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said the fire marshal couldn't say for certain whether the cause of the fire was arson, which would have made the case difficult to try.
"The arson investigator couldn't get the independent physical evidence needed to prove it was arson," O'Brien said.
O'Brien said there was also evidence the home at 707 Poplar St. was a "flop house," meaning people were using the abandoned trailer to use drugs.
"There was no way we could say, 'He's the one,'" O'Brien said.
Police arrested Montano at the scene of the fire, where he was staring at the destroyed property. His relative told police Montano confessed to setting other fires in the south Farmington neighborhood.
But Montano never spoke to police investigators, O'Brien said.
Montano was never charged in connection to any other fires in the neighborhood.