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Man who set fire to Somali restaurant asks to be released until sentencing

GRAND FORKS -- An East Grand Forks, Minn., man who admitted to setting fire last December to a Somali restaurant in Grand Forks wants to be released from jail until his sentencing in August.

Matthew William Gust
Matthew William Gust

GRAND FORKS -- An East Grand Forks, Minn., man who admitted to setting fire last December to a Somali restaurant in Grand Forks wants to be released from jail until his sentencing in August.

Matthew William Gust pleaded guilty to two charges Thursday in federal court -- malicious use of explosive materials and interfering with a federally protected activity -- for a fire set Dec. 8 at Juba Coffee House and Restaurant on South Washington Street with a Molotov cocktail. The blaze caused at least $90,000 damage.

In a motion filed Monday, Gust's attorney, Theodore Sandberg, asked that Gust either be released into a residential treatment facility in Grand Forks or Fargo or into his parents' custody at their home in East Grand Forks until his sentencing August 29.

"(Gust) is seeking a chance to prove himself to the court," Sandberg wrote in the motion. "He also wants to get away from the jail. (Gust) is not seeking a free ride."

Gust is willing to accept special conditions -- drug testing, travel restrictions and a curfew -- so he can be employed, Sandberg said.

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In January, Judge Alice Senechal ordered that Gust must remain in custody through the duration of his court case.

With this latest motion, pretrial services must evaluate whether either of these options would be suitable for Gust's release. Judge Ralph Erickson would make a decision on the matter.

Gust is facing 15 years in prison on his charges through a plea deal he signed.

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