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Man accused in interstate collapse scolded for alcohol use


The man charged with setting the fire that led to the collapse of a portion of I-85 in Atlanta was reprimanded on Monday after testing positive for alcohol.

Basil Eleby, who is in a pre-trial drug treatment program as a condition of his bond, also tested positive for cocaine on Sept. 6.


IN DEPTH: Who is to blame in the collapse of the I-85 bridge in Atlanta?

MORE: Seven things to know about Basil Eleby

On Monday, he was placed briefly in handcuffs and could have been returned to prison. Instead, he will continue in the treatment program after it was determined that alcohol had not been specifically outlawed under the conditions of his bond.

“Ma’am, I never had a problem with alcohol,” Eleby told Fulton County Superior Court Judge Constance Russell.

Russell said Eleby must comply with rules laid by pre-trial supervision.

“Are you not clear about the fact that you’re not free?” Russell asked.

Authorities charged Eleby with arson after they say he set fire to a shopping cart under the highway in March. The blaze eventually caused a chunk of the busy interstate to collapse after it spread to construction material the Georgia Department of Transportation stored under the bridge.

Eleby, who had been homeless at the time, has pleaded not guilty. His lawyers have said he has an alibi and is being made a scapegoat for GDOT, who erred in storing the materials there.

The interstate collapse snarled traffic in metro Atlanta until the stretch of highway was reopened six weeks later, ahead of schedule.



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