ATLANTA - The man accused of starting an arson fire that led to the Interstate 85 Bridge Collapse is one step closer to having the case dismissed after getting his case transferred to Behavioral Court.
Attorneys for Arson Suspect Basil Eleby presented a Fulton County judge with an agreement that prosecutors signed to transfer the criminal case to Behavioral Health Court.
Eleby will be in the rigorous program for 18 months. The first 90 days involve classes from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., then they are followed up with more accountability. If Eleby successfully completes the program, the arson case will be dropped.
Eleby faces several charged in connection with the March 30 fire, including arson and criminal damage to property. The damage was so extensive that crews had to repair the interstate in both directions.
The formerly homeless man still maintains his innocence and is grateful to so many people who believed in him.
"Even in my most drug induced state, there is no way that one man could have started that fire, plus bridges aren't engineered to burn that fast," Eleby said standing with 3 of his four pro bono attorneys.
He also thanked the Sankofa United Church of Christ, a Muslim mosque number five, a women's group and others for supporting and believing in him.
Prosecutors said this resolution was the best solution for Eleby and the community.
Following the bridge collapse, the fire department located 39-year-old Sophia Brauer and 57-year-old Barry Andrew Thomas. While conducting interviews with the two individuals in conjunction with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Thomas stated he witnessed Eleby set a chair on fire after he placed it on top of a shopping cart. Investigators concluded that initial fire led to the collapse of the I-85 bridge.
Authorities located Eleby and said he had talked about smoking crack prior to the fire that broke under the I-85 bridge in an area where the state of Georgia stores noncombustible construction materials. He was subsequently arrested.
Eleby's attorneys pleaded not guilty in the high-profile case and have said he will not be used as a scapegoat.
On April 19, Eleby was released from jail. He was granted a $10,000 consent signature bond under a number of conditions. Some of those conditions include: not violating any laws, having zero contact with any witnesses involved in the case, appearing in court when scheduled, not threatening any person or property, remaining 1,000 yards away from the I-85 crime scene except when accompanied by members of his defense team, remaining enrolled in treatment throughout the duration of the case, being subject to monthly drug screens through pretrial services and receiving gainful employment within 60 days after being released.
Eleby's last court appearance was in September after failing a drug test. At the hearing, Superior Court Judge Constance Russell ruled Eleby could remain in a drug treatment program and stay out of jail. The judge issued her ruling after she ordered another drug test for Eleby, and he tested negative.
If Eleby had tested positive, his bond would have been revoked and he would have been sent back to jail. Defense Attorney Mawuli David said Eleby previously tested positive for drug use while in rehab on two separate occasions but has changed facilities to get his addiction under control.
Eleby has been in an addiction treatment facility since his release from the Fulton County Jail in April.
After the September hearing, Eleby told FOX 5’s Aungelique Proctor in an exclusive interview he let a lot of people down by failing the earlier drug test, and he is disappointed himself.
Eleby said he has been addicted to drugs for 15 years, and breaking the addiction is hard.