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Arson Suspect's Request to Leave House Rejected : Crime: Accused fire Capt. John L. Orr is under house arrest. He sought a work-release so he could earn money to pay mounting household and legal bills, his lawyer says.


GLENDALE — A Los Angeles federal judge has refused to release suspected serial arsonist John L. Orr from house arrest, blocking the Glendale fire captain's bid to return to work.

U.S. District Judge Edward Rafeedie rejected the request, made Friday by Orr's attorney, Douglas McCann, who said that the city had cut off Orr's $63,000 annual salary while he is confined to his Eagle Rock home.

Because of mounting household and legal bills, the veteran firefighter, who is the city's chief arson investigator, had sought work-release so he could earn his pay while performing office chores or other duties--or go on paid sick leave if the city decided he was unfit for work.

McCann acknowledged that Glendale officials, who are reviewing Orr's arson investigations for evidence of misconduct, probably would not put him back to work while he is awaiting trial on eight counts involving arson at retail stores in Los Angeles County and in Atascadero in San Luis Obispo County.

But the defense attorney said Orr must show that he is available to work to be eligible to collect his sick pay. Glendale officials have placed Orr on unpaid leave and have said he cannot apply for sick pay while he is legally confined to his home.

Shortly after his arrest last December, Orr, 42, was released on $50,000 bail, with the condition that he remain under electronically monitored house arrest.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Stefan D. Stein argued last week against the proposed work-release, saying Orr "is a danger to the community."

Stein also said the sick leave issue "is a separate matter between Mr. Orr and the city of Glendale."

In denying Orr's release, Rafeedie said, "It sounds like a manipulation to me." The judge said Orr is no different from a defendant being held in jail, who might similarly be denied sick pay.

But McCann countered: "He's willing to work. It's not a manipulation."

Outside the courtroom, the defense lawyer said he will continue to seek Orr's release.

During Friday's hearing, Rafeedie set a new date--April 14--for Orr's trial. The proceeding had been scheduled to begin next Tuesday but was postponed because Rafeedie will be unavailable at that time.

Rafeedie said he will rule April 6 on several key pretrial motions. These include McCann's requests to exclude two major pieces of evidence: Orr's fingerprint, found on a fire-setting device in Bakersfield, and "Points of Origin," Orr's unpublished novel about a firefighter who is a serial arsonist.

The judge is also expected to rule that day on whether to admit a psychological evaluation of Orr, which McCann said shows that the fire captain does not possess the emotional profile of an arsonist.

Stein said he is preparing a motion to block McCann from seeking testimony from a police officer who told authorities that he saw Orr at the scene of an arson in Lawndale, but who later learned he had identified the wrong man. The prosecutor said he does not plan to use that officer to link Orr to that fire.

At Friday's hearing, Rafeedie denied a motion by attorneys from both sides for a questionnaire that would ask prospective jurors whether they had been influenced by pretrial publicity concerning the Orr case. Rafeedie said such a document is unnecessary.

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