Ohio business owner accused in deaths of two firefighters gets 20 years

Ray Abou-Arab gives a thumbs up as he is escorted from Lucas County Common Pleas Court Wednesday, May 11, 2017 in Toledo, Ohio. (Dave Zapotosky/The Blade via AP)

TOLEDO, OH (AP) — An Ohio building owner accused of arson that led to the deaths of two Toledo firefighters was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in prison.

The sentence came shortly after Judge Stacy Cook declared a mistrial for Ray Abou-Arab, 64, who had pleaded not guilty to charges including aggravated murder.

Abou-Arab then entered what’s known as an Alford plea on involuntary manslaughter and aggravated arson charges. The plea means he doesn’t admit guilt but concedes prosecutors had evidence to convict him. Other charges were dismissed.

The Oregon native was given credit for 1,196 days spent in jail since his arrest. He will have to register annually as an arson offender as part of sentencing.

Abou-Arab’s attorney, Sam Kaplan, declined to comment Thursday.

FILE – In this Jan. 27, 2014, file photo, firefighters from Sandusky, Ohio, and Perkins Township, Ohio, view the remains of an apartment building where firefighters Stephen Machcinski and James Dickman while killed while battling a Jan. 26, 2014, fire in Toledo, Ohio. (Dave Zapotosky/The Blade via AP, File)

Cook declared the mistrial after Toledo Police Sgt. Keefe Snyder told jurors Abou-Arab failed a polygraph exam. Information from polygraphs is typically not admissible in court. The testimony was considered incriminating toward Abou-Arab.

The judge said the trial mishap wasn’t intentional from either side of the case.

Abou-Arab could have been re-tried if he hadn’t entered the plea.

He was accused of setting the January 2014 fire at an apartment complex he owned to collect insurance money. Toledo Fire Pvts. Stephen Machcinski and James Dickman died trying to contain the blaze.

Family members of the two fallen firefighters spoke about their loved ones during court proceedings.

“The outcome of this case and trial is that nobody wins; everybody loses,” said Machcinski’s brother, Rick Machcinski.

Cook described Abou-Arab as self-absorbed.

“Maybe I give you too much credit for being human,” she said.

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