AUGUSTA — A city man originally charged with arson in connection with a March 21, 2013, fire at 146 Northern Ave. has been found not criminally responsible for aggravated criminal mischief.

Stephen B. Cormier, 58, of Augusta, entered a plea of not criminally responsible for the blaze, which heavily damaged the four-unit building occupied by him and one other tenant. Justice Daniel Billings approved the plea in Kennebec County Superior Court, and Cormier was placed in the custody of the commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services and scheduled to be placed at Riverview Psychiatric Center, the state’s forensic hospital.

In April 2013, Cormier was indicted on two counts of arson — one saying the fire recklessly endangered people or property and the other saying the fire was intended to damage or destroy property — and one count of aggravated criminal mischief. The building later was demolished and the lot cleared.

An affidavit filed with the court by Kenneth MacMaster, an investigator with the state fire marshal’s office, said Cormier admitted using a lighter to set fire to a bill in the living room of his first floor apartment and then placed it near other pieces of mail. The affidavit also said Cormier told officials he poured several glasses of water on the fire to try to put it out and fled after flames from the couch reached the ceiling. He was treated for smoke inhalation.

MacMaster said an occasional roommate of Cormier’s reported that Cormier had not been taking his medication, had not taken a shower for a year and had been acting crazy by “sitting in his chair, laughing and looking towards the ceiling.”

Cormier has been held at Kennebec County jail pending the hearing.

A year ago, Justice Michaela Murphy ruled that Cormier was incompetent to stand trial on the basis of a report from Ann LeBlanc, a psychologist who is director of the State Forensic Service. Murphy ordered Cormier to be sent to Riverview for care, observation and an attempt to make him competent to stand trial.

“He was highly compromised at that time,” said Fernand LaRochelle, deputy district attorney in Kennebec County. LaRochelle said that Cormier was restored to competence through the forensic service and then evaluated for criminal responsibility.

“It became evident from reading the reports he just did not appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct at the time of this act,” LaRochelle said Monday, explaining why the state dismissed the arson charges and agreed to a plea of not criminally responsible to the aggravated criminal mischief charge.

The prosecutor said having Cormier placed at Riverview and under strict monitoring by the court “is what we felt was needed in this case.”

Cormier’s attorney, Ronald Bourget, said his client was lacking treatment and was off his medications when the fire occurred, “and his ability to produce rational thought was profoundly impaired.”

Previously when Cormier lived in Waterville, he was arrested on a warrant after reports he was behaving menacingly toward women shoppers in a Waterville supermarket. He was later convicted of assault and sentenced to six months in jail.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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