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November 14, 2012 at 11:17 AM

Martin Pang’s lawyer claims plea coerced in deaths of 4 firefighters

An attorney representing Martin Pang, the man convicted of setting the 1995 warehouse fire that killed four Seattle firefighters, has filed a lengthy court motion seeking to have a judge order the King County Prosecutor’s Office to turn over additional documents.

Jeffrey Ellis, who is now representing Pang, said in a recent King County Superior Court filing that he is seeking “to review the entire prosecutor’s file.” But, Ellis claims, documents are being withheld.

For Ellis, the biggest issue in question is his client’s whereabouts when the fire was set. While prosecutors have always contended that Pang flew up from Los Angeles the day of the fire, Ellis wrote that during his review of some filings he “found several sworn statements, previously filed under seal, which unequivocally stated that Mr. Pang was in Los Angeles when the warehouse fire was set.”

Ellis, in his court filing, alleges that Pang was “coerced” into confessing his guilt. Pang’s previous legal team, led by John Henry Browne, also argued that Pang’s confession was coerced, However, Pang stated in court that his confession was true and later pleaded guilty to four counts of manslaughter.

Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff at the King County Prosecutor’s Office, said that Ellis is seeking prosecutors’ private work product; documents the state is not required to release.

“We believe the arguments made by Mr. Ellis are meritless,” Goodhew said.

Pang pleaded guilty on Feb. 19, 1998, to setting fire to his family’s Chinatown International District warehouse. Prosecutors said he torched the building to collect insurance money.

Pang is serving a 35-year prison sentence.

Lt. Walter Kilgore, 45, Lt. Gregory Shoemaker, 43, and firefighters Randall Terlicker, 35, and James Brown, 25, died when the floor of the frozen-foods warehouse collapsed on Jan. 5, 1995, trapping them inside.

Pang, now 57, was prosecuted after a long and involved extradition battle with Brazil, where he had fled shortly after the blaze.

“We are disappointed that Mr. Pang has apparently changed his mind and no longer accepts responsibility for the deaths of the four firefighters,” Goodhew said this week.

Pang is serving his prison sentence at the Monroe Correctional Complex, according to the Department of Corrections.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: arson, King County Superior Court, Martin Pang

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