Alleged arsonist delays plea to November date


— Matthew John Hoffman was scheduled to enter pleas to arson, burglary and thefts he is allegedly responsible for but instead made a brief court appearance Friday afternoon.
The 19-year-old Warren, Ohio, man who allegedly set a fire at The Ridge back in August to cover up a burglary will not enter a plea to four felonies until the first week of November.
Hoffman's attorney, Norm Townsend, asked District Judge Joel S. Thompson to continue his client's arraignment.
"I have put this case on a fast track in an attempt to get this resolved as quickly as possible for my client," Townsend said. "Since this has been put on a fast track, I have not gotten the discovery from the District Attorney's office, which is not their fault."
Townsend asked Thompson for more time to review the district attorney's evidence prior to his client entering a plea to the charges that include first-degree arson, second-degree burglary, aggravated motor vehicle theft and theft.
Thompson granted Townsend's request and scheduled the arraignment for 3:45 p.m. Nov. 3.
In the meantime, Townsend will continue to work with Deputy District Attorney Charles Feldmann, who has been assigned to prosecute the case, in working out a plea agreement, he said.
"I will continue negotiations with Mr. Feldmann, although it has been fruitless to this point," he said.
Also on Friday, Townsend withdrew a motion for Thompson to reconsider the $35,000 bail that has been set for Hoffman.
Hoffman was arrested by Steamboat Springs police Sept. 26.
The fire he allegedly set in the early morning hours of Aug. 28 destroyed two townhouses and damaged eight others.
The fire caused authorities to evacuate 16 people staying at The Ridge.
Hoffman allegedly set fire to the unit in the eight-unit building to cover up a burglary he allegedly committed the day before. After allegedly committing the burglary, he allegedly stole a Chevrolet Suburban belonging to the unit's owner. He allegedly put stolen goods in the vehicle and drove it to a parking lot at the Clocktower. The vehicle was recovered by police the day of the fire.
Hoffman was arrested after he agreed to travel from Ohio to Steamboat Springs to discuss the theft of two signs that welcome visitors to the city. The signs were stolen in July.
Police recovered the stolen signs, worth $5,000 each, Sept. 7. The signs were found in Hoffman's former apartment at the D Bark K Motel.
According to a court file, Hoffman confessed to police he set the fire and stole the signs.

To reach Gary E. Salazar call 871-4205 or e-mail


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