Man charged with I-85 bridge fire pleads not guilty, to be released on bond

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Man charged with I-85 bridge fire pleads not guilty, to be released on bond

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BOB ANDRES/AJC
Basil Eleby sits with his attorneys in court on Tuesday, April 18 2017. BOB ANDRES/AJC

Basil Eleby, the homeless man accused of setting a fire that caused a section of Interstate 85 to collapse, is expected to be released on bond after pleading not guilty to arson and criminal trespass charges in court Tuesday morning.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville ordered Eleby be released on a $10,000 signature bond and enter into a treatment facility. Eleby is also banned from going near the I-85 bridge unless he is with his attorneys.

The arraignment is one of the first steps of what is likely to be a long trip through the criminal justice system.

Held on a $200,000 bond, Eleby has been in the Fulton County Jail since the day after the massive I-85 fire March 30. The blaze left a portion of the key Atlanta transportation artery unusable, forcing commuters on to surface streets, into car pools or onto MARTA. 

He is charged with arson and criminal damage to property.

Police say Eleby was using drugs under an elevated portion of the interstate just north of where it merges with Interstate 75 to form the Downtown Connector. 

Eleby allegedly  set fire to a stuffed chair that was on top of a plastic shopping cart.

 

Not Basil Eleby's new team of defense and civil rights attorneys said he is being used as a scapegoat.

Officials say the cart melted and the fire spread and engulfed coiled plastic conduit stacked in rows under I-85 near Piedmont Road.

Lawyers representing Eleby at no charge say he is a scapegoat and officials are blaming him to redirect attention away from the state Department of Transportation, which had stored the conduit under the overpass for years.

State transportation officials say they will have the repairs made and the interstate open by June 15.

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