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Friendship man getting new trial after judge tosses arson conviction

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Judges gavel and stryker By Brian Turner (Flickr: My Trusty Gavel) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Judges gavel and stryker By Brian Turner (Flickr: My Trusty Gavel) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

MARQUETTE COUNTY, WI (WTAQ) - A central Wisconsin man is getting a new trial, after his previous arson conviction was thrown out.

42-year-old Joseph Awe of Friendship was almost finished serving a three-year prison term, before he was released Monday from the Oregon Correctional Center at Fitchburg.

Awe had two months left in his term. And he’s been trying for 6 years to clear his name, after he was found guilty of starting a fire that destroyed a tavern he owned, J.J.’s Pub at Harrisville in Marquette County.

In awarding a new trial, Circuit Judge Richard Wright said the state never determined how the fire started and, “There was no direct evidence of the defendant’s guilt.”

The state fire marshal’s office says it’s meeting with Marquette County prosecutors to decide whether to appeal the acquittal.

Awe said his trial lawyer failed to call witnesses which would have proven he was home in Friendship when the blaze began. And he presented a report from a Florida investigator showing the fire probably started in an electrical circuit box.

The 130-year-old building reportedly had a history of electrical problems. 

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