By Paula Reed Ward, Trib Live:
A man accused of setting a fire at his home on Bricelyn Street in 1995 that killed three Pittsburgh firefighters continues to claim his innocence.
But on Wednesday, after fighting for 27 years, Greg Brown Jr. entered a guilty plea, finally bringing the case to conclusion.
Brown, 44, entered what is called an Alford plea. It allows him to plead guilty while “expressly maintaining his innocence,” said Senior U.S. District Judge David S. Cercone.
Brown’s attorney, Michael Novara, told the court his client chose to plead guilty to avoid the risk of going to trial again.
“Should Mr. Brown further fight the case and be convicted after trial, he faces a sentence of life imprisonment,” said Michael Novara. “After spending 20 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, and having finally won his freedom, Mr. Brown is unwilling to take the chance that he might again be wrongfully convicted and sent back to prison for the rest of his life.”
Both the prosecution and defense agreed that sentencing guidelines in the case would call for life in prison.
However, under the plea agreement, Brown will face no additional imprisonment.
Brown was 17 at the time of the Feb. 14, 1995, fire at his East Hills home. Three city firefighters died from asphyxiation and smoke inhalation – Marc Kolenda, 27, Patricia Conroy, 43, and Capt. Thomas Brooks.
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