Phoenix arson investigators named in civil-rights lawsuit

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Phoenix Fire Department
Phoenix Fire Department

(Photo: The Republic)

A 44-year-old man has filed a lawsuit against Phoenix alleging that Fire Department investigators violated his constitutional and civil rights in 2009 when he was indicted on suspicion of arson.

Carl Vincent Ball Caples, who now lives in Illinois, spent more than 14 months in a Maricopa County jail awaiting trial for allegedly setting fire to a home he shared with two other men near 19th Avenue and Union Hills Drive, according to the lawsuit. An arson expert hired by his then-defense attorney determined the blaze was an unintentional electrical fire.

Prosecutors dismissed the case against Caples the day his trial was set to begin.

His suit, filed Wednesday in Maricopa County Superior Court, alleges that the city failed to hire properly trained investigators, did not provide them with additional training and allowed them to use discredited investigation techniques. The suit also alleges that fire investigators approached investigations with a "preconceived idea of whether a fire was arson." Caples’ attorneys demanded that damage amounts be determined in a jury trial.

Phoenix spokeswoman Stephanie Romero could not immediately comment on the suit because she didn’t know whether the City Attorney’s Office had had time to review it.

The lawsuit also names former Phoenix Fire Chief Robert Khan, former Fire Marshal Jack Ballentine, and Capts. Sam Richardson, Fred Andes and William Nelson.

The lawsuit is the latest development…

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