Columbia man acquitted of arson charges
COLUMBIA - A Columbia man was acquitted of first-degree arson by a Boone County jury Wednesday.
Mehrdad Fotoohighiam, 64, was arrested in 2015 after barricading himself in his home. He triggered a 7-hour standoff with the Columbia Police S.W.A.T and Crisis Negotiation Team.
Fotoohighiam owns the Columbia-based engineering firm ETI.
He was charged with paying someone $500 to start a fire at a mobile home on Rock Quarry Road in a property dispute.
According to court documents, witnesses said Fotoohighiam had been feuding with the homeowner because he wanted to purchase the property she owned.
The homeowner, Marcia Green, was inside the home sleeping when the fire started. She was burned and suffered carbon monoxide poisoning.
Green was awarded $2.75 million in damages.
The man accused of setting that fire, James Hall, was acquitted in 2018.
Prosecutors later charged Fotoohighiam after he allegedly made plans to have his wife and the judge in his arson case killed while he was in jail.
A judge ordered Fotoohighiam to be held in jail without bond after prosecutors argued he had access to money, which he might use to try and kill people involved in the case.
During the 8-day trial, the Columbia Missourian reported defense attorney Scott Rosenblum attacked the credibility of the investigators.
“Would you let (them) be responsible for anything important in your life? The answer has to be ‘No,’” Rosenblum said.
Rosenblum also attacked the prosecution's witnesses, calling them "a parade of con-artists," according to the Missourian.
Fotoohighiam still faces charges of attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder. A trial date for those charges has not been set.