"Burning Man" Michael Marin Criminal Trial Heading Down Homestretch

We will know in a few days if Michael Marin, the onetime attorney and Wall Street trader now on trial for allegedly torching his Biltmore Estates mansion, will be taking the stand in his own defense.

County prosecutors have been trying to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Marin burned down the beautiful residence in early July 2009 because his financial situation was perilous and he needed the insurance money.

Marin will be looking at prison time if convicted of residential arson.


Marin has denied any criminal wrongdoing and suggested to us in this 2009 story headlined "Buring Man" that the fire was caused accidently, perhaps by electrical problems.

We were very sure that the self-proclaimed thrill-seeker (he scaled Mount Everest) would be taking the stand in his own defense.



But his court-appointed attorneys surprised us earlier today when they said they still aren't  sure if Marin will testify.

Prosecutors are supposed to wind up their case later today. Their key witness so far has been Phoenix fire Captain Jeff Peabody (on the stand for more than four days). Peabody was  lead investigator in the highly publicized blaze and put together the criminal case against Marin after becoming convinced that he was guilty..

The defense is expected to call an expert witness from the Boston area who probably will testify that the fire started accidentally, not intentionally.

More than 50 firefighters fought the Biltmore Estates inferno, though no one was injured.

The case made big news in part because of Mike Marin's quirky tale of how he escaped that night with his life:

Marin descended from his second-story bedroom window after donning a scuba tank to allow him to breathe, and slunk down a rollout ladder that he happened to have at hand.

If Marin does decide to testify (we just can't picture the guy turning down a chance to sell his own case to the jury), we'll be there.

He is a very entertaining fellow, a world-class storyteller, and the stakes will be huge with his freedom on the line.

How could Marin say no to an opportunity like that?

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin