PORTLAND – A 19-year-old man accused of setting a fire that destroyed the Fryeburg Academy gymnasium went on trial Monday in federal court.
Maxx Noble’s trial this week is expected to include testimony from people who say he and Philip Thibault told them that they had set the blaze.
Thibault pleaded guilty and is expected to testify against Noble. But the defense is expected to attack Thibault’s credibility, arguing he was a homeless man who abused cough medicine to the point of hallucinations.
No one was injured in the fire on Oct. 12, 2005, but it destroyed the $1.7 million recreation complex as well as athletic equipment.
Both Thibault and Noble were students at Fryeburg Academy. Noble attended the school but did not graduate; Thibault was a 2003 graduate.
Prosecutors say the pair broke into two buildings, vandalized property and stole a five-gallon can of motor oil before moving on to the Harvey Dow Gibson Recreation Center, which housed the school’s gymnasium and theater. They allegedly stole some athletic equipment from the building before setting it afire, prosecutors said.
Noble and Thibault allegedly dumped the stolen articles in the woods. Noble’s DNA was found on a soda bottle in the area.
Thibault, who told witnesses he set the fire, was arrested last December in Michigan and pleaded guilty. Noble was arrested in Florida, where he moved with his mother two months after the fire. He was returned to Maine in January.
Noble faces one count each of conspiracy and arson. He was being tried in federal court because the fire destroyed property that the government says was used in interstate commerce. The school is near the New Hampshire border.
Defense lawyer Leonard Sharon contended the case should not have been tried in federal court.
“To find that a high school gym is used in interstate commerce would be to stretch the statute beyond any rational reading,” Sharon wrote in court documents.