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Judge: 'plea deal' possible in Lockport fire case

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Posted at 12:12 PM, Mar 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-16 12:12:11-04

A Niagara County Family Court judge said Thursday the teenager charged with starting the fire at High Tread International in Lockport last August might make "a negotiated settlement".

There was an evidentiary hearing scheduled Thursday morning to determine if certain evidence would be allowed in the ongoing fact-finding hearing in this case.  But after a delayed start, Judge John Batt held a short session of court explaining a settlement is in the process of being worked out by prosecutors and defense attorneys.

The teenager charged with criminal mischief, arson, and criminally negligent homicide, would need "to make admission of certain acts" as part of the settlement, according to Judge Batt.

The fire killed 14-year-old Joe Phillips of Lockport and caused $13 million in losses to High Tread International Recycling on Ohio Street.

Prosecutors have said the teenager charged and Joe Phillips started the fire that burned for days and forced an entire neighborhood to evacuate.

If the agreement is made, the fact-finding hearing would stop and a dispositional hearing would begin to determine what punishment the teenager could be facing.  Judge Batt said if the settlement does come together, it would be a few weeks before he issued any final disposition.

No agreement can be made without the defendant present.  The teenager was previously excused from Thursday morning's court session.  Judge Batt said the the defendant will be present for the continuation of the fact-finding hearing Thursday at 1:45 p.m.

Defense Attorney Angelo DiMillo said in court Thursday morning he is "confident my client will work along the lines I am laying out".