Bail set for Juba arson suspect

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- A Grand Forks judge set bond at $50,000 Wednesday for an East Grand Forks man accused of setting a Grand Forks business on fire last week.

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- A Grand Forks judge set bond at $50,000 Wednesday for an East Grand Forks man accused of setting a Grand Forks business on fire last week.

Matthew William Gust, 25, was charged Friday with arson, a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, after prosecutors said he threw a 40-ounce beer bottle filled with gasoline through the windows of Juba Coffee House and Restaurant, starting a fire that caused an estimated $90,000 in damage to the Somali restaurant.

Gust was arrested late Monday night at a Super 8 Motel in Fosston, Minn., and had his first court hearing on the charges Wednesday in Grand Forks District Court, a hearing that lasted less than seven minutes.

Grand Forks County Assistant State's Attorney Brittney Blake did not say anything about Gust possibly being a flight risk when arguing for a $100,000 bond at the hearing. In the past, Gust was charged with several misdemeanors for missing court hearings. Police have not said whether it was Gust's intent to flee when he was picked up at the Fosston motel. He was arrested without a fight.

Blake, the county prosecutor, instead pointed to Gust's criminal record, which includes convictions for terrorizing and simple assault, both Class C felonies, after he threatened to harm a clerk at Romantix, an adult entertainment store in Grand Forks, and punched a police officer in the eye in 2011, according to court records.


Gust objected to the county prosecutor's bond request of $100,000, saying he could not afford it. He asked the judge for a lower bond, adding he would make his court hearings.

"I have no intention of leaving," he said. "I have every intention of going back to work."

District Judge Jon Jensen set Gust's bond at $50,000. Jensen also ordered him to complete drug testing and stay away from Juba, 2017 S. Washington St.

At the hearing, Blake did not comment on the motive behind the attack on the Somali restaurant, known for its sambusas, a fried, meat-filled pastry.

The fire was ignited just days after a Nazi-like symbol and the words "go home" were graffitied on the restaurant's outer windows, fueling speculation the attack was racially or religiously motivated. Police have not linked the two incidents, and detectives have not released information on the motive behind the arson attack.

In May 2013, Gust was ordered by a judge to serve two and a half years in prison after he violated multiple terms of probation. He had been placed on probation after serving two months in jail in 2012 for the Romantix incident under several conditions, including that he remained a law-abiding and participated in the 24/7 alcohol and drug abstinence program.

But while on probation, Gust was charged with crimes for separate cases in Cass County District Court and Grand Forks Municipal Court after he stole about $500 worth of merchandise from a Wal-Mart in Cass County, started a fight and left the scene of an accident while driving drunk, according to court records.

Court papers state Gust admitted to using methamphetamine and Ritalin while on probation, and he was caught having consumed alcohol on several occasions, which was in violation of his terms of probation. He also was charged with misdemeanors after he missed multiple court hearings.


Gust was released from prison on July 15, said Michelle Linster, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Gust has a preliminary hearing at 9 a.m. Jan. 19. He has hired Grand Forks attorney Ted Sandberg to represent him in the arson case, according to his court docket.

Gust is being held at the Grand Forks County jail.

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