You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myAJC.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myAJC.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myAJC.com.

Lawyers for homeless man search for witnesses to I-85 bridge fire


Lawyers for Basil Eleby, the homeless man accused of starting a fire that brought down a section of I-85, are asking for witnesses to call them because they believe there are people who can help show that Eleby did not do what authorities have said he did.

At the same time, the attorneys raised questions at a Friday news conference about the Georgia Department of Transportation and law enforcement accounts of what led to the collapse of an elevated portion of that interstate. Eleby’s lawyers said GDOT shares in the blame.

“This is not just railroading,” said Mawuli Davis, one of Eleby’s four attorneys, who are all working at no charge. “It’s railroading on steroids because you have this catastrophic outcome and you come and get the little guy.”

Davis said the legal team is still studying Eleby’s case and the evidence authorities have collected, but they already know they will question GDOT’s decision to store flammable material under the interstate. “All parties involved in storing the materials have to be held accountable,” he said.

Davis said Eleby’s “mood is one of frustration” and dismay. He said the team believes Eleby’s responsibility in setting the fire is “none at all. Zero. None. It’s too early to know who started the fire.”

“We think it’s a rush to judgment,” said Lawrence Zimmerman, another attorney representing Eleby.

Eleby’s legal team has set up a telephone line to take tips — 1-800-237-6072.

A massive fire late in the rush hour on March 30 brought down a chunk of I-85 just north of where the highway merges with I-75 to form the Downtown Connector. Both the northbound and southbound lanes in that section will be closed at least until mid-June, which has further compromised Atlanta’s already challenging traffic.

Eleby was arrested the day after the fire and is being held in the Fulton County Jail on a $200,000 bond on felony charges of arson and criminal damage to property.

Law enforcement said the 39-year-old homeless man was under the bridge, using drugs, when he set fire to a chair placed on top of a shopping cart. Fire officials say the cart melted and then ignited coiled plastic conduit stacked in rows under I-85 near Piedmont Road.

Eleby is scheduled to enter a plea in court on Tuesday. Advocates for the homeless have asked supporters to pack the courtroom.

A coalition of about 25 groups has set up a website — www.basileleby.com — that is supposed to include information about what people can do to support Eleby. As of Friday afternoon, however, the only thing shown was a “Basil Eleby” T-shirt that is being sold for $24 to $35.

“Mr. Eleby will not be the scapegoat or the fall guy,” said Marcus Coleman, who spoke for the coalition.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

London tower blocks evacuated over fire concerns
London tower blocks evacuated over fire concerns

Thousands of residents in a north London housing complex were evacuated from their apartments Friday night after fire checks revealed the buildings were unsafe, Reuters reported. >> Read more trending news The checks were done in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire on June 14. Residents, along with their children and pets were removed from five...
Georgia 2018: Begala says Evans reminds him ‘why I’m a Democrat’
Georgia 2018: Begala says Evans reminds him ‘why I’m a Democrat’

State Rep. Stacey Evans. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM A few decades ago, when Zell Miller was making his first run for governor, the mountain man employed two partners who had done well for another Southern governor: Bill Clinton of Arkansas.
Hugh Grant offering reward for WWII vet's lost medals
Hugh Grant offering reward for WWII vet's lost medals

Actor Hugh Grant is offering a $1,100 reward for the return of a blind British World War II veterans medals after the 95-year-old man lost them at a service station. >> Read more trending news D-Day veteran Alfred Barlow landed on Sword Beach on June 6, 1944. Barlow, who was a corporal when Allied forces attacked the French coast, attended this...
'Flower man' steals the show at Wisconsin wedding
'Flower man' steals the show at Wisconsin wedding

Traditional weddings usually include a flower girl and a ring bearer. But nuptials last week in Wisconsin included a flower man -- and he did his job so well, he nearly stole the attention from the bride. >> Read more trending news Andria Farthing got married in Madison on June 17. For her flower girl, she chose her 28-year-old cousin, Patrick...
2 arrested in 30-person brawl after N.Y. high school graduation
2 arrested in 30-person brawl after N.Y. high school graduation

A high school graduation ceremony in upstate New York ended with a brawl that injured one police officer and led to the arrest of two teenagers, the Albany Times Union reported. >> Read more trending news The brawl outside Watervliet High School in suburban Albany on Thursday night required four police agencies to respond before it was under...
More Stories