Bond reduced for arson suspect

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An Elbert County judge reduced bond for the 19-year-old volunteer firefighter accused of starting a wildfire last summer near the town of Elbert.

Alex J. Averett, of Elbert, had his bond cut from $50,000 to $25,000 by Judge Palmer Boyette. That’s still far from the $10,000 the defense was seeking.

According to authorities, Averett confessed to starting the County Road 102 fire that scorched more than 600 acres and forced the evacuation of the town of Elbert last June.

Averett appeared in court March 8 with new counsel Thomas Dunn, the noted Denver attorney who represented Fort Collins police Lt. James Broderick in the perjury case connected to the wrongful murder conviction of Timothy Masters.

Dunn argued Averett’s deep roots in the community, along with his continued cooperation with authorities, put him at minimal risk for flight.

The prosecution disagreed, saying it wasn’t until the third interview, when authorities cornered him, that he confessed.

Averett’s sister and wife sat quietly in the back of the court as Dunn laid out a case for his client’s plea, demonstrating what he called a “strong support network” that would assume responsibility for ensuring the defendant met all court appearances.

Boyette essentially split bond down the middle, noting that although Averett demonstrated intent to cooperate, the fact the fire was started when firefighting resources were scarce justified a higher amount.

He faces multiple criminal counts, including intentionally setting a wildfire, second-degree arson, reckless endangerment, criminal mischief and second-degree criminal trespass.

Averett was a volunteer firefighter with the Elbert Fire Protection District, which covers more than 180 square miles and serves 1,500 people.

The court also denied an earlier request by Averette, a 2011 graduate of Elbert High School, to be released on personal recognizance.

Averett remains in custody and will be back in court on April 15.