Homeless man pleads guilty to Minnesota synagogue fire

Published 9:25 pm Wednesday, September 25, 2019

DULUTH — A homeless man who admitted starting a fire that destroyed a 117-year-old synagogue in Minnesota, then walking away from the growing blaze because he couldn’t douse it, is expected to get probation after pleading guilty.

Matthew Amiot, 36, entered his guilty pleas on negligent fire charges Tuesday in St. Louis County District Court.

The fire destroyed the Adas Israel Synagogue on Sept. 9 in Duluth. Authorities said Amiot used a lighter to ignite a pile of combustible materials outside the main building, near a separate religious structure called a sukkah.

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The complaint said Amiot admitted starting the fire and told police he tried to spit on it to put it out, but walked away when that didn’t work. Police said they don’t believe the fire, which came just weeks ahead of the Jewish high holy days, was a hate crime.

Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 25. According to a press release, prosecutors in the case are recommending probation. As a condition of his release from jail, he was ordered to remain at a homeless shelter until his next hearing.