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White Earth man found innocent of arson by reason of mental illness

A White Earth man has been found innocent by reason of mental illness of two felony arson charges in Becker County District Court.

Kenneth Quentin Brown, 37, of Box 302, White Earth was charged with first- and second-degree felony arson.

According to court records, about 3 a.m. on June 12 a woman allegedly saw him foraging around inside her car, which was parked about 10 feet from her house. She recognized him because he is a neighbor.

A few minutes later she called police again to report that he had started her porch on fire and also started her Buick Century on fire.

The woman, along with two other women and their pets, were able to get out of the house as it began burning.

Brown was not home when police went there to find him, but they learned from his parents that he had not been taking his medications and that he had not slept for five days. His parents had had to take a gas can away from him earlier in the day.

Sometime later he came home, his parents notified police, and he was arrested without incident.

He was previously convicted of first-degree arson and felony fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle in 2004 and possession of a dangerous weapon in 2000.

On Wednesday, District Judge Peter Irvine found him innocent on both arson counts by reason of mental illness, based on his file, court proceedings, and the professional findings outlined in the evaluation report by Dr. Nancy Hein-Kolo, dated July 24.

The court found the defendant "laboring under such a defect of reason, due to mental illness, that he was unable to understand the nature of his behavior or the wrongfulness of his actions."

The court and county attorney's office must be notified of any proposed changes in any institutional transfers or hospitalization plans, and the county attorney's office has a right to be a party to any civil commitment proceedings.