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September 26, 2019 9:55 am

Homeless Man Pleads Guilty to Synagogue Fire in Duluth

avatar by JNS.org

The remains of the Adas Israel Congregation in Duluth, Minn. Photo: Screenshot.

JNS.org – A homeless man pleaded guilty on Tuesday to accidentally setting fire to a historic synagogue in Duluth, Minn., on Sept. 9 that destroyed the building.

Matthew James Amiot, 36, confessed that he tried to stay warm when he lit a small fire that spread out of control and affected the 118-year-old Adas Israel Congregation.

“I lit a little fire and woke up, and it was a lot bigger,” he testified in front of the State District Court, adding that he unsuccessfully attempted to put out the blaze, which caused a firefighter to be hospitalized.

Accelerants were not detected at the scene, and authorities have said there is “no reason to believe that this is a bias or hate crime.”

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Amiot is scheduled to be released from custody with supervision on Wednesday.

Sentencing is slated for Oct. 25.

He faces up to three years behind bars and/or a $5,000 fine on the felony charge of starting a negligent fire resulting in more than $2,500 in damages, in addition to a misdemeanor charge of starting a negligent fire resulting in bodily harm.

There was relief in some circles that the fire was not arson, and that the synagogue itself was not targeted as part of an intentional crime.

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