Arsonist caught with lighter released from jail

Posted July 05, 2012, at 3:57 p.m.
Dana R. Benner
Knox County Jail
Dana R. Benner

ROCKLAND, Maine — A District Court judge has approved the release of a man who was arrested after being caught with a Bic lighter while free on bail awaiting sentencing for setting his home on fire in 2008 to collect insurance.

Dana R. Benner, 51, of South Thomaston was stopped May 3 in Damariscotta when police noticed a headlight was out on the vehicle he was driving. His bail conditions do not allow him to possess any incendiary devices.

The district attorney’s office obtained an arrest warrant and Benner was taken into custody Friday. He was released after a hearing Monday in Rockland District Court.

Judge Ralph Tucker set bail at $5,000 unsecured during the hearing. Tucker reaffirmed, however, that Benner cannot be in possession of any incendiary devices, including lighters, and that he cannot be in possession of cigarettes.

The district attorney’s office asked the court last week to revoke Benner’s bail. A bail revocation hearing has been scheduled for August.

Benner’s attorney, Jonathan Handelman of Brunswick, has argued that the bail condition of prohibiting smoking be removed since Benner has tried unsuccessfully to quit smoking.

Benner pleaded guilty in December to one count of arson for a fire that damaged his home in September 2008 in South Thomaston. The agreement reached between the prosecution and defense was that he be sentenced to four years in jail with all but nine months suspended if he did not violate bail in the next 12 months. Sentencing was agreed to be held in December 2012.

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