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Jonathan Grant 

Man, 22, held on $35,000 bail in Manchester arson fires

MANCHESTER - A police prosecutor Tuesday sought bail of $100,000 cash/surety for a city man accused of setting a series of fires in the alley between Merrimack and Laurel streets that not only caused material damage but also could have endangered the lives of those who were asleep in the buildings.

'These alleged acts took place around 1:40 in the morning,' said prosecutor Steven Mangone, citing public safety concerns.

Jonathan Grant, 22, who lives with his mother at 40 Crowley St., could enter no plea in 9th Circuit Court, Manchester District Division, to five felony charges linked to the five arson fires, two alleging reckless conduct and three alleging arson.

Defense attorney Caroline Brown called the $100,000 figure 'extremely excessive' and asked for $50,000 personal recognizance bail.

Brown said Grant had cooperated with police and his criminal record is basically a B misdemeanor drug possession conviction three years ago. He is unemployed, she said, but has completed applications for work with a temporary labor placement agency.

Judge Gregory Michael said, 'Part of my concern is directly related to the alcohol issues.' Saying he is concerned about a possible repeat, Michael said, 'I do believe some amount of cash bail is appropriate.' He set bail at $35,000 cash/surety, but said Grant's court-appointed attorney could petition for a change in bail if there were an alcohol treatment plan submitted.

Because Grant could enter no plea to the felony charges in Circuit Court, a probable cause hearing was set for Sept. 11.

The two reckless conduct charges allege a green trash barrel set on fire against the building at 180 Laurel St. could have caused serious injury or death to occupants if a police officer had not removed it, and a couch against the building at 261 Merrimack St. could have done the same if the fire had not been extinguished by the fire department.

The three arson charges allege: a fire at 295 Merrimack St. destroyed two vehicles, three trash cans, a wooden fence and structure, causing an estimated $50,000 damage; a mattress set on fire against a building at 434 Union St. damaged siding before an officer pulled it away; and a green trash barrel set on fire against a building at 172 Laurel St. damaged the siding.

Court documents show a highly intoxicated Grant, who had a lighter and cigarettes in his possession, was taken into protective custody after he was found in the area of the Pine Street lot at 2:05 a.m.

A motion-activated surveillance camera on the WR Taverna building at 201 Merrimack showed a male dressed similar to Grant staggering westerly in the alley, a cigarette in hand, while looking over his shoulder at 1:35:40 a.m. Two minutes later, at 1:37:56, the camera is activated by flickering light consistent with a fire reflecting on the buildings surrounding the WR Taverna. At 1:38:09, the headlights of a police car are observed.

A photo of the man in the alley was later circulated to police officers and identified as Grant by the officer who took him into protective custody.

The court documents show Grant agreed to an interview, admitting he consumed a large quantity of beer at a Dutton Street residence before walking home. He recalled being on Maple Street, near Manchester High School Central, and the next thing he recalled was coming out of an alley, hearing sirens and entering a large parking lot where he was stopped by police.

Grant initially told police he couldn't recall anything else and 'must have blacked out.'

According to the documents, he identified the surveillance photo as himself and appeared to tear up when viewing a hand-drawn picture of the alley with the fire sites marked. Based on statements he made, his acknowledgement he was in the alley, his lighter, and his image on surveillance video walking away from the fire at 434 Union St., police sought warrants for Grant's arrest.

What's next: A probable cause hearing is set for Sept. 11.

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