AUGUSTA — Two men described as transients from out of state are charged with arson because of a motor vehicle fire early Wednesday morning in a Waterville business parking lot.

James Richard Page, 26, and Andrew Michael Bartmann, 34, were in front of a judge via video at separate times Wednesday afternoon and told that the arson charge carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, $50,000 fine and four years of probation.

Page, who was born in Missouri, and Bartmann, who was born in Iowa, are accused of driving a vehicle — possibly stolen from a woman in Oregon — and setting it ablaze to destroy it in the parking lot of Super Shoes, just off Kennedy Memorial Drive, in Waterville. The fire was reported shortly after midnight.

Justice William Stokes set bail for each man at $5,000 cash, citing a lack of ties to Maine. They remained at the Kennebec County jail Wednesday afternoon.

Attorney David Geller, representing Page as lawyer of the day, argued that the police affidavit in support of a warrant for Page’s arrest says that “a fire occurred within some motor vehicle,” but “it has nothing to show my client intended to start or maintain it.”

Geller said there was no information indicating the vehicle belonged to someone else or that Page or his co-defendant were not legally in possession of the vehicle.

Stokes ruled that there was enough information at this point to charge the men.

“The evidence is circumstantial; that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad,” Stokes said. “The inference that you could draw from this evidence is that Mr. Page and his associate were in possession of this vehicle, whether rightly or wrongly, and traveled to Maine and in an effort to dispose of it, set it afire.”

Waterville Fire Department Capt. Shawn Esler said Wednesday afternoon that firefighters were dispatched about 12:14 a.m. Wednesday to a vehicle fire by a dumpster at 1 Washington St., the location of Super Shoes.

“Units arrived to find a fully involved vehicle fire,” he said.

Esler said the report does not indicate that anyone was injured and that firefighters were there for almost three hours.

The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Christopher Coleman, told Stokes that witnesses saw both men in the car when the fire sprang up and that both ran away from the scene and later “told inconsistent stories to law enforcement.”

He said the men were unable to say who gave them the car. Coleman also said the investigation is ongoing. Jeremy Damren, of the Office of State Fire Marshal, is listed as the investigator.

In asking for the $5,000 bail, Coleman said Page has a history of failing to appear in court. “I believe there’s an active warrant for him in Georgia,” Coleman said.

Bartmann was represented at his initial appearance by attorney Elizabeth Gray, who also was serving as lawyer of the day.

Gray also challenged the police affidavit, but Stokes said he was abiding by his earlier decision.

Stokes indicated he would appoint an attorney to represent Bartmann on the charge.

The next hearing for the two men is scheduled for Nov. 9 at the Capital Judicial Center.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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