Amherst, NY - The man accused of intentionally setting a fire inside the Amherst Target over the summer pleaded not guilty Wednesday in court.
William Lattin, 64, is charged with second degree arson. Lattin's defense attorney, Robert Cutting, has concerns about his client's mental state as the case moves forward.
Right now, Lattin is being held without bail. The August fire caused a quarter of a million dollars in damage. Customers quickly evacuated the store, and no one was hurt.
Cutting, tells us that while two Erie County mental health experts say his client is competent to stand trial, he does not agree. Lattin, who is also homeless, first appeared in court just days after the fire.
Attorney Cheryl Meyers-Buth says the original judge assigned to the case had concerns and ordered the psychiatric evaluations done by the county.
"What the defense is doing is ensuring himself that his client is in fact competent to proceed. So it's very common," says Meyers-Buth.
Cutting wants his own independent expert to evaluate Lattin's mental state. He believes that Lattin is gravely mentally ill and has no understanding of what happened this summer when the fire was started in the men's clothing department.
"Some people refer to it as an insanity defense. But, what the defense would have to show is that because of a mental disease or defect, he lacked the capacity to understand or appreciate what the nature and consequences of his conduct was or that the conduct itself was wrong," says Meyers-Buth.
Since no one got hurt in the fire, Meyers-Buth says that helps make this a Class B Felony instead of a case of first degree arson.
"The fire was set in a building, and the defendant knew or should have known that there were people inside. To elevate it to a Class A Felony, somebody would have had to have a serious injury, he would have had to have used an explosive device, or have made an agreement for financial gain," she says.
Lattin is scheduled to be back in court January 16 at 2pm. He faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.