The former owner of the Rustic Mill has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him in connection with the 2011 arson case.
Brian C. Adkins, 41, pleaded not guilty to party to arson and nine other charges Monday at an arraignment in Jackson County Circuit Court.
Adkins’ attorney, Francis Rivard, also announced at the hearing the defense is pursuing an out-of-county jury because of pretrial case publicity in addition to seeking a new judge to preside over the case.
Adkins, the Rustic Mill’s former owner, stands accused having his son ask another of the restaurant’s employees to burn it down for insurance money.
He also faces multiple charges for tax violations, insurance fraud and resisting or obstructing an officer.
Adkins pleaded not guilty to all the charges during his arraignment after waiving his right to a preliminary hearing and being bound over for trial by Judge Thomas Lister.
Rivard’s motion that seeks an out-of-county jury argues the amount of media coverage in addition to postings about Adkins and the case on websites and social media sites won’t allow for a fair trial in Jackson County.
“The pretrial publicity in this case — its quantity, frequency, prominence, content and details — have so prejudiced the defendant’s right to secure a fair and impartial trial as to require a change in the place ... by empaneling a jury from another jurisdiction,” Rivard wrote.
The motion to remove Lister from the case didn’t indicate why the defense is seeking the change.
Adkins, who left Jackson County three days before the July 2011 blaze, told investigators he owed more than $60,000 to vendors and a construction company.
Adkins had opened the town of Albion eatery in July 2010, and his son, Tyler C. Keck, said the business initially was profitable. However, Adkins reportedly owed employees for their last week of work but couldn’t pay them, according to the complaints.
Authorities say Keck, 21, was present when Kyle W. Rott, 20, agreed to burn the longtime town of Albion eatery down, which he ultimately did the evening of July 8, 2011, according to the complaints.
Keck also reportedly talked to Rott in Walmart the day of the fire. That’s where Rott told Keck he planned to start the fire that night or the next day, after which Keck told him to “go for it,” according to the complaints.
However, Keck recently reached an agreement with prosecutors that will allow him to have his charge of party to arson dismissed in a year if he testifies against Adkins and Rott.
Adkins, now of Fort Worth, Texas, remains free on a $25,000 signature bond. Lister maintained current bond conditions, which require Adkins to notify the clerk of court within 48 hours of any address changes and not to have contact with Keck or Rott.
Rott, who is charged with arson of a building, does not have any future court dates set.