State withdraws plea agreement in boat arson case

The prosecution withdrew a plea agreement last Wednesday, Aug. 14, in the case of Makai “Mike” Martushoff, 59. Martushoff had been charged with one count of first-degree arson, a class A felony. A change-of-plea hearing scheduled for July 29 had been continued to Aug. 8 and then Aug. 14, but on Wednesday assistant district attorney Kelly Lawson said the state was pulling the offer.

At last week’s hearing, Magistrate George Peck took no action on the plea withdrawal and continued a preliminary hearing to 3:30 p.m. Aug. 23.

Martushoff was charged with allegedly burning a fishing boat in dry dock at the Northern Enterprises Boatyard on Oct. 29, 2012.

Police allege Martushoff intentionally set his father’s boat, the Slava II, on fire in an attempt to kill himself. The boat had major damage, but firefighters kept the fire from spreading to nearby boats. Martushoff suffered burn injuries and was hospitalized. He has either been hospitalized or in jail since then.

At the hearing, Martushoff’s public defender, Hatton Greer, said his client had accepted an offer to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of criminally negligent burning. If that deal had been accepted, Martushoff would have had to serve no more than a year in jail. Martushoff was close to having served his time if the deal had been accepted.

In court, Greer said the plea offer and acceptance should be treated as a legal contract. He later clarified in e-mail that he was making an analogy between the deal and a contract. Greer told the magistrate that he objected to the withdrawal of the plea agreement and would be filing a motion to that effect. Peck said he would not decide anything that day.

Martushoff has not yet been indicted for arson by a grand jury. Under court rules, a defendant in custody must either be indicted or a preliminary hearing held within 10 days. Preliminary hearings have been held and continued, and Greer has waived two court rules, Rule 5 and Rule 45. Rule 5 governs when cases must be brought to a grand jury and Rule 45, the “speedy trial” rule, when cases must go to trial.

Greer argued that with the plea agreement made on July 26, now that the deal has been withdrawn, that is when Rule 5 should start to toll — that is, when the 10-day deadline for an indictment starts. Greer requested the arson charge be dismissed because that deadline had passed, but Peck did not rule on that request. Greer also did not waive rule 5. Peck agreed that the 45-day rule should toll from July 26.

Peck did set another preliminary hearing within 10 days of Aug. 14.

In the original complaint, police alleged that Martushoff threatened his father and Michael Hough, the father’s lawyer. The father had filed several civil suits against his son. Police alleged Martushoff threatened to kill his father and Hough and burn down their houses. Hough and the father attended last week’s hearing. Hough had earlier expressed concerns about reducing the charge to a misdemeanor and had a meeting last week with Lawson, he said.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.