Mason City arsonist gets a partial legal victory

Ethan Miller
Ethan Miller

DES MOINES, Iowa – The man convicted of setting fire to a Mason City fast food place has won a court battle.

24-year-old Ethan Miller of Mason City was convicted of 1st degree arson, 1st degree burglary, 2nd degree theft and possession of marijuana.  Authorities say he set fire to the Subway store on South Illinois Avenue on December 29, 2014, after stealing about $1,700 from the store safe.

The fire caused over half a million dollars in damage.

Ethan Miller
Ethan Miller

Miller was hired at the store in November, 2014, and surveillance video captured him taking money from the register on December 27, 2014, attempting to turn off the store’s surveillance system and readjusting the security bar on the back door.  Video also showed someone entering the store via the back door and then heading for the breaker box, followed by the power going out.

The unidentified person on the video is similar in height to the 6’1’’ Miller while every other employee was no taller than 5’8’’.

Miller was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

In his appeal, Miller argued that prosecutors never proved he was the unidentified man on the video and that he could not be guilty of 1st degree burglary because that charge involves entering an occupied structure and the Subway store was empty.

The Iowa Court of Appeals has affirmed Miller’s conviction for arson, saying the circumstantial evidence provided “overwhelming evidence” of his guilt.  However, the Court agreed that his conviction for 1st degree burglary was a mistake and ordered Miller to be resentenced for 2nd degree burglary.  His conviction on the other charges was also upheld.

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