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Attorney: Insurance company need to help clients, not hurt them

FRIENDSHIP, WI (WTAQ) - A defense lawyer says state officials and insurance companies should reconsider letting insurers take charge of prosecutions against their policyholders.

That's after Joseph Awe of Friendship, who spent 3 years in prison for an arson he didn't commit, was given an undisclosed amount of compensation by his insurer.

The 44-year-old Awe was convicted of burning down J.J.'s Pub in Marquette County in 2006. He co-owned the bar with his wife.

Prosecutors relied heavily on experts hired by Awe's insurer, Mt. Morris -- and they argued that Awe hired somebody to burn down the tavern so he could collect the insurance money. They ruled out a possible electrical problem as the cause of the blaze.

A circuit judge later found that investigators had used a discredited method in ruling that the blaze was an arson -- and Awe was freed from the Oregon Correctional Institution last year.

Defense lawyer Eric Haag tells the State Journal that insurance companies should help their clients and not hurt them.

A lawyer for Mt. Morris has not commented.

(Story courtesy of Wheeler News Service)