Horton Plaza arson suspect tells judge ‘I’m not taking a fall for nobody’

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SAN DIEGO – A man who’s on felony probation for threatening to blow up a local hospital and is now accused of setting a trash can on fire near the former NBC building in downtown San Diego pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a charge of arson of property.

Brian Keith Smith, 58, was arrested Monday after a number of fires erupted outside Westfield Horton Plaza mall, destroying a food kiosk, damaging the trash can and scorching a discarded suitcase.

The investigation into the kiosk fire and the suitcase fire is continuing, said Deputy District Attorney Kyle Sutterley.

At his arraignment, Smith went on a rant about President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama. The defendant also told Judge Jay Bloom he was not guilty of the crime charged.

“I’m not taking a fall for nobody,” the defendant told the judge.

Smith faces three years in prison if convicted.

The first of the three blazes broke out shortly before 5 a.m. Monday and gutted a dessert-crepe cart outside the main entrance to Horton Plaza.

Less than an hour later, the contents of a refuse container in the 200 block of Broadway and a small piece of luggage lying next to a nearby bus stop also were found burning, said Sgt. Rick Pechin of the San Diego Metro Arson Strike Team.

A surveillance camera captured images of a man setting fire to the trash can, and investigators used the footage to track down the alleged perpetrator, identified as Smith. The suspect was taken into custody in the area without incident about 6 a.m., Pechin said.

The judge found that Smith is a danger to the community and ordered him held without bail on his probation case. Bail was set at $50,000 bail on the arson case.

The fires occurred two months after a hot dog cart was torched at Horton Plaza. Smith is under investigation in connection with that blaze, as well as the three that took place Monday morning, the sergeant said.

Bloom set a readiness conference for Dec. 5 and a preliminary hearing for Dec. 7.