Robert Allen/The Coloradoan
FORT COLLINS - Jurors convicted a former Occupy Fort Collins activist Friday on counts of arson, burglary and criminal mischief in connection with a fire that destroyed a four-story residential building in October 2011.
Benjamin David Gilmore, 31, faces a range of penalties from probation to 30 years in prison. He was acquitted of two more-serious charges of attempted murder, as well as additional counts of arson and criminal mischief.
The jury of five women and seven men deliberated more than a week to find the verdict after the weeks-long trial. This is the second time the charges were brought against Gilmore; the first trial in 2012 ended in a mistrial after jurors failed to reach a conclusion in six days. The Oct. 24, 2011 Penny Flats fire caused an estimated $10 million in damage and threatened 21 people's lives, prosecutors previously said.
Gilmore was an active member of the Occupy demonstration amid nationwide protests against social and economic inequality, and he spoke of the movement with media and before Fort Collins City Council before his arrest. The fire was a block from the protest site.
Sentencing is set for 1:30 p.m. Dec. 12. Attorneys, jurors and Gilmore declined comment after the verdict was read Friday morning.
Evidence against Gilmore included his Rolex watch, which was found in two pieces among the debris near scaffolding inside the building: The bezel was on the second floor, where the fire started; the rest of the watch was on the ground floor. Gilmore's hands had burns, and photos and video prosecutors used as evidence showed he wasn't wearing bandages and gloves until after the fire.
The defense argued the watch could have been stolen, and the burns were from Gilmore practicing fire-spinning (performance art where flaming balls are spun on chains) to surprise his wife. Gilmore, who only has one hand, couldn't have sneaked up the scaffolding in the dark with a fuel can, the defense argued.
Gilmore, who runs Copoco's Honey in north Fort Collins, remains free on a $250,000 surety bond.
> First-degree arson (Class 3 felony): four to 12 years in prison
> Criminal mischief of more than $20,000 (Class 3 felony): four to 12 years in prison
> Burglary (Class 4 felony): two to six years in prison
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