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Arson suspect says he was falsely accused

Man charged in marina blaze says he has 'stepped on a lot of toes' looking for justice

Posted: Monday, October 11, 2004

The man accused of triggering a 1,600-gallon fuel spill in Auke Bay and setting Dehart's Marina on fire last month says he has no motive for the crime and did not commit it.

Rickey Gottardi, 45, said he believes others have reasons to accuse him of cutting fuel lines at the marina and lighting the fuel with a blowtorch in the early hours of Sept. 21, as the first-degree arson charge against him alleges. He said it could be related to the murder of his brother, six years ago and 50 miles away.

"I never had anything to do with this," Gottardi said from the Lemon Creek Correctional Center, where he is being held in lieu of $50,000 bail.

Damage from the fire was estimated at $12,000. The cost to clean up after the fire was estimated at $50,000, according to court records.

Last week, Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins scheduled Gottardi's trial for Jan. 3. The case was assigned to Judge Larry Weeks, who was unavailable for Tuesday's scheduling hearing.

Gottardi has pleaded innocent to first-degree arson, third-degree criminal mischief and a misdemeanor charge of oil pollution.

"They've been trying to force me out of Juneau for awhile," Gottardi said. But he added that his arrest at about 4 p.m. Sept. 21 - some 12 hours after the fire was reported - "hit me by total surprise."

He said he has "stepped on a lot of toes" in pushing for justice in his brother's death.



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