- Associated Press - Saturday, November 14, 2015

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The attorney representing a man facing a retrial in the arson deaths of three Pittsburgh firefighters two decades ago is opposing the prosecutor’s motion for a new judge.

The Allegheny County district attorney’s office has asked Common Pleas Judge Joseph Williams III to remove himself from the case of Gregory Brown Jr.

Brown, 38, was sentenced to three life terms in the 1995 fire but won a new trial on the grounds that prosecutors hadn’t revealed that two witnesses in the case were promised reward money.

Prosecutors alleged that the judge had a bias against the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and a prospective expert witness, saying he wrote an angry letter when questioned by an ATF agent investigating a carpet store fire in 2004 while Williams was an attorney representing the owner.

Defense attorney Dave Fawcett said Friday that prosecutors would be unable to meet the high legal standard required for a recusal, and any such motion had to be filed at the beginning of the proceedings, not years after an appellate proceeding.

“The commonwealth has accused this court of nothing more than doing its job - the commonwealth simply takes issue with the outcome,” he wrote.

Prosecutors allege that Brown poured a half-gallon of gasoline on some clothes in the basement of the four-story home and started the blaze in hopes of collecting $20,000 in insurance money for a down payment on a new home.

Authorities said Capt. Thomas Brooks, 42, Marc Kolenda, 27, and Patricia Conroy, 43, suffocated when their air tanks ran out as they tried to grope their ways out of the rapidly burning home.

Brown, who was 17 at the time of the fire, was convicted of second-degree murder, arson and insurance fraud before the convictions were reversed on appeal. His mother, Darlene Buckner, was convicted of insurance fraud and placed on probation.

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