We've been getting an unusual number of calls and e-mails from folks wanting to know the status of the felony arson case against Michael Marin, the fascinating, if troubled, fellow we wrote about last summer in "Burning Man."
Readers may recall the story: Marin's a mountain climber, visual artist, author, and onetime alleged financial wizard whose beautiful Biltmore Estates mansion caught on fire one night last year -- with Marin inside.
According to Marin, he had the presence of mind to don some scuba-diving equipment that he'd stored in a bedroom closet on the second floor, and then lowered himself to safety via a portable ladder.
Unfortunately for the dude, Phoenix Fire investigators uncovered evidence at the scene that convinced them (and a county grand jury) that Marin had torched the place himself.
It happened just weeks after Marin's plan to raffle his home in conjunction with a local charity failed to pass muster with local gaming authorities, who said it would have been illegal.
It took Marin a few weeks to post the $200,000 bond ordered by the court after his arrest and incarceration. During that time, however, he hired veteran Phoenix criminal-defense attorney Richard Gierloff, a fine (though not cheap) advocate for his clients.
Marin has pleaded innocent.
Though a trial date is now officially set for next month, that won't happen, as court records show that many pretrial interviews have yet to be completed.
A December 22 motion by the defense to disqualify the Maricopa County Attorney's Office from prosecuting Marin also is pending (defense attorneys around the Valley are filing similar motions, as a legal strategy stemming from the mess that County Attorney Andy Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio have fomented down at the courthouse.
As for Marin, he's been lying low since his release from custody after his stay in the county jail. We actually enjoyed our several hours of interviews with the guy. He's a sterling conversationalist, and the stories he told us -- true or not -- were absolutely compelling.
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We wonder what a jury of his peers will think of him.