Man charged in I-85 bridge collapse appears in court

The man accused of starting a fire that caused a portion of Interstate 85 to collapse back in March appeared in court Monday afternoon.

Basil Eleby faces several charges, including arson and criminal damage to property.

The 40-year-old appeared before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Constance Russell. The arraignment lasted a few minutes. Attorneys from both sides told the judge they needed 12 more weeks before they could finish evidence discovery.

Eleby told the judge all the community support he is receiving is helping with his addiction recovery. He echoed that statement after the hearing.

“I just want to say thanks to everybody for supporting me. My lawyers, the people at the Church, Pastor Rice… you guys have been doing a good job with me," Elegy marveled.

Elegy has gone from more than a decade of homelessness, living in a car, to a clean-shaven, well-groomed look in a business suit.

Eleby has been in an addiction treatment faculty since his release from the Fulton County Jail in April.

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On March 30, a massive fire broke out around 6 p.m. underneath the I-85 overpass at Piedmont Road and caused a section of the road to collapse, crippling traffic in both directions of the busy highway. The damage was so extensive that crews had to repair the interstate in both directions.

I-85 reopened about six weeks later, more than a month ahead of the original completion date of June 15.

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 in the case.

On April 19, Eleby, 39, 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.

If convicted, Eleby could face 25 years in prison and up to a $50,000 fine. He's scheduled to appear before a judge at 4 p.m. Monday.

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