Judge Robert J. Elgee has disqualified himself as presiding judge in an arson case involving the Wood River Counseling Center in Hailey.
Elgee said Thursday that he stepped down from the case because he is acquainted with staff at the center, who he works with in Blaine County Drug Court.
The case involves burglary and first-degree arson charges, both felonies, against Evan Pisa Puluti, a 22-year-old Hailey resident who is accused of breaking into the counseling center the evening of July 16 and setting a fire that caused an estimated $100,000 in damage.
Puluti was arrested and charged with the crimes following a joint investigation by Hailey police, the Hailey Fire Department and the state fire marshal.
Puluti, currently free on $15,000 bond, pleaded not guilty to the charges at arraignment Monday before Elgee in Blaine County 5th District Court. Elgee accepted the pleas and then later that day signed an order removing himself from the case.
The case is now assigned to Judge Jonathan P. Brody, who normally presides in 5th District Court in Minidoka County. Brody has set a scheduling conference in the case for Tuesday, Sept. 2.
Terry Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org