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Published: Wednesday, 3/8/2006

Suspect in boat fire agrees to plea deal

A Point Place man accused of setting a boat fire for money last year at the River View Yacht Club boat yard entered into a plea agreement yesterday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

Harry Philabaun, 30, of 6161 Summit St., entered an Alford plea to one count of arson, a third-degree felony, and was found guilty by Judge Denise Ann Dartt. He faces a maximum of five years in prison at his April 12 sentencing.

In an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but pleads guilty to a lesser charge to escape more severe penalties had the case gone to trial.

Philabaun originally was charged with aggravated arson, a first-degree felony, in the May 5 blaze at 6040 Edgewater Drive.

Philabaun set fire to a 35-foot, shrinkwrapped boat owned by Mike Cooper. The blaze spread to four nearby large boats and caused $200,000 damage. Fire investigators are still working on who paid Philabaun to set the fire. No charges have been filed. Philabaun did not say how much he was paid or how he spent the money.

Philabaun did odd jobs for boat owners who stored their watercraft in the yard and other yards in Point Place. An employee who worked in the storage lot told authorities that he saw Philabaun just before the fire began. Investigators said Philabaun also asked for directions to the boat where the fire began.

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