MDI restaurateur fined $250 after fire at employee housing

Posted Dec. 06, 2011, at 12:39 p.m.
Last modified Dec. 06, 2011, at 6:51 p.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — A Bar Harbor restaurateur pleaded no contest Tuesday to a misdemeanor charge and has been fined $250 for violations that came to light after a fire severely damaged a house he owns in downtown Bar Harbor.

Thomas J. Testa, owner of Testa’s Restaurant, housed approximately 10 restaurant employees in the Roberts Square house when it caught fire in October 2010.

One tenant in the house suffered minor injuries when he was trapped in a third-floor bedroom and then had to crawl out a window onto a ladder propped against the house by a police officer. The state fire marshal’s office, which attributed the blaze to an electrical problem, later charged Testa with multiple safety violations.

On Tuesday, Testa reached a plea agreement with prosecutors in which he was found guilty of one count of violating public fire safety rules and three other charges were dismissed. Testa pleaded no contest to one count of failure to provide more than one way of egress out of the building, according to Hancock County Assistant District Attorney William Entwisle.

Entwisle said Tuesday that prosecutors agreed to the plea deal because Testa has no criminal history and has been cooperative with state fire officials in making sure the rebuilt house meets safety requirements. The fire marshal’s office insisted, however, that any deal with Testa include a criminal conviction.

“He’s done it the right way,” Entwisle said of Testa. “He’s been cooperative throughout. He’s paid the fine already.”

On Tuesday, Testa did not respond to an emailed request for comment and his attorney, Douglas Chapman of Bar Harbor, did not respond to a request for comment left at his office.

The plea agreement came through just as Testa’s case was being considered for a possible trial date this month in Hancock County Superior Court.

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