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Two of the three boys charged with arson in connection with a fire that gutted the rear portion of the Stenton Trust Mill in Sanford on June 23 have admitted to one count of misdemeanor criminal mischief, their attorneys said following a court hearing Thursday morning.
They will serve one year of probation.
A charge of felony arson was ordered continued until January by Biddeford District Court Judge Michael Duddy. If the boys comply with their probation and continue to do well, attorneys for the boys said the charge will be dismissed.
“This was a mistake that took a very bad turn, ” said Lisa Chmelecki, who represents one of the boys. “These boys meant to start a fire, but they didn’t mean to burn a building.”
She said the fire quickly raged out of control.
Both Chmelecki and attorney Cory McKenna, who represented another of the boys, said their clients showed remorse for what they had done.
“It was truly an accident, said McKenna.
A portion of the two hearings was open to the news media and another portion, where the boys were questioned by the judge, was closed.
McKenna said his client showed a lot of remorse when speaking with the judge.
“He’s taken every step the state and his parents asked him to do,” said McKenna.
Fire roared through the rear tower of the vacant five-story former textile mill on River Street, known locally as Stenton Trust Mill, erupting just before 7 p.m. on June 23.
It quickly spread throughout the rear tower of the building and raged on through the night. Firefighters from 26 communities fought the blaze.
Chmelecki said her client, an eighth-grade student, has been cooperative and both he and his family have followed conditions set by the court, including taking part in counseling requirements, reporting regularly to his juvenile corrections case manager, following rules at home and school. She pointed out that he, like the others, had been on house arrest for a time.
She said restitution was not ordered for her client, because it is based on ability to pay.
Both boys have changed schools, and are doing well, their lawyers said.
As to the sentence, the attorneys said that the goal of the juvenile justice system is not punishment, but rehabilitation.
“The purpose was met here today,” said Chmelecki.
The third boy is scheduled to make his appearance at Biddeford District Court on Oct. 26.
Two of the boys were 13 years old when the fire broke out, a third was 12.