SKOWHEGAN — Two brothers from Waterville pleaded guilty in court Wednesday to arson charges in connection with the torching of a car with a Molotov cocktail as retaliation for the theft of marijuana plants.

Alexis Casey, 25, and his brother Zachary Casey, 22, both of Hathaway Street, Waterville, were charged with class A felony counts of arson, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. The offenses happened in June in the town of Madison.

Assistant District Attorney Brent Davis told the judge they had reached a negotiated plea of 16 months in prison for each man.

Outside the courtroom Wednesday, Alexis Casey acknowledged that he and his brother had made a big mistake that night. But Casey also said the intended target of their anger — Michael Nichols, 27, of Madison — deserved to be punished in some way for allegedly stealing their legal marijuana grow operation.

“Let’s just say that looking into the situation, we found out that Mr. Nichols was behind stealing my plants,” he said. “I never make assumptions. They were completely legal. He took something from my family who are very, very close to me and are people who help me out.”

Casey said they “had a bad day … drank a lot of booze” and made a poor decision. He said he is satisfied with the plea agreement, noting that he and his brother initially faced up to 30 years in prison.

“Of course I regret it. It was a stupid thing,” he said. “I wish I did it a different way, handled it differently.”

The brothers’ pleas came under a Rule 11 agreement, in which a defendant is allowed to enter a guilty plea after a judge asks a series of questions designed to ensure that the defendant is willingly entering the plea and is waiving his right to a trial voluntarily. District Court Judge Andrew Benson accepted the pleas and agreed to the deal, which calls for a total of eight years in prison, with all but 16 months suspended, and three years of probation.

The brothers will be sentenced officially and will begin serving their sentence March 1 as part of the agreement. If the men re-offend once they are out on probation, they could face the entire eight years in prison. The men appeared separately in court Wednesday, each with a different attorney.

The brothers went to Madison Area High School. Their family owns Casey’s Market in Anson.

Alexis Casey, represented by attorney Peter Barnett, appeared first Wednesday, telling the judge that he understood that he was giving up his right to a trial.

“You understand that you will have a felony conviction on your record?” Benson asked him, adding that he will never be able to use or possess a firearm.

“Oh, yeah,” Casey replied.

Zachary Casey followed, represented by attorney John Martin. His plea agreement was the same as his brother’s.

They had been indicted by a grand jury on the arson charges in October.

A court affidavit filed Oct. 11 by investigator Jeremy Damren, of the state fire marshal’s office, alleges the brothers wanted to get revenge on Nichols, who they believed had stolen marijuana plants from a legal grow operation. The car that was destroyed, a 2008 Chevy Cobalt, was owned by Nichols’ girlfriend, Sara Cookson, 25, according to the court document. The car was parked at Cookson’s home at 8 Middle St. in Madison, according to the affidavit.

When the car was set ablaze, it was about 5 feet from an occupied three-unit apartment house, according to the court document. Firefighters managed to save the house.

The brothers allegedly obtained an empty 40-ounce Hurricane beer bottle, filled it with gasoline and, after breaking a car window with a rock, tossed the bottle inside, burning the car completely. They used an old sock as a wick for the fire bomb, according to the affidavit.

Investigators found the empty beer bottle, which smelled of gasoline, a Bic lighter and a rock that they say broke the car’s window. Cookson owned the car, but Nichols was the target.

Nichols, 28, of Madison, was sentenced to serve eight months of a five-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in November in Somerset County Superior Court to five counts of felony burglary and seven counts of misdemeanor theft. Justice Robert Mullen said he would postpone Nichols’ prison term until Feb. 7 so Nichols can finish treatment at a methadone clinic in Waterville for his addiction to heroin.

Nichols said in November that he was not the one who stole the marijuana plants.

Nichols was first arrested Dec.19, 2015, after he was caught burglarizing a garage on Redneck Road in Starks. The home’s residents confronted him at the scene and convinced him to give back their property before he fled in a blue Chevrolet Cobalt, the car that later was set on fire, leading to the arson charges.

A month before the fire, Zachary Casey reportedly told people at a party they all attended in Highland Plantation that he was angry with Nichols for stealing what he thought was about $2,000 worth of marijuana plants, and “he was going to burn (Nichols’) car with a Molotov cocktail,” according to the affidavit.

In interviews with the fire marshal’s office as the investigation continued into October, Alexis Casey initially said he had no knowledge of the fire but later recanted, saying he had lied about their involvement to protect his brother, the affidavit states. He later told investigators that his brother had been drinking and that he, Alexis, broke the car window with a rock and Zachary Casey lit the bottle stuffed with a piece of cloth, the affidavit states. They had driven from Waterville to their father’s house in Madison, where they got the gasoline, according to the document.

Zachary later said the same thing, telling the investigators that it was his idea to torch the car, not his brother’s.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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Twitter:@Doug_Harlow