By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on November 28, 2023.
The lawyer for a man charged with setting fire to the historic Lethbridge Hotel earlier this year has been allowed to withdraw as the accused’s counsel.
Calgary lawyer Robin McIntyre was granted leave to step down after Michael Randall Big Swan failed to attend court Monday, and after McIntyre’s agent, Kirsten Lancee, told the judge that numerous attempts in the last several weeks to contact the accused have been unsuccessful.
“Mr. Big Swan has not responded to calls or emails,” Lancee told Justice Jerry LeGranduer. “I can also advise that the last means of communication, which was to contact his case worker, did not produce fruitful results, therefore sir, although I can’t tell the court he is aware of today’s appearance, I can tell the court we’ve made multiple attempts since Oct. 15 to regain contact.”
Big Swan also failed to attend court last week in Lethbridge court of justice, and a warrant for his arrest was issued, but held to allow the accused one more chance to make contact with his lawyer. Following McIntyre’s application on Monday to be removed from the record, the warrant was released.
Big Swan faces one charge of shopbreaking/commit arson relating to a fire Feb. 24 that destroyed the Lethbridge Hotel on the corner of 5 Street and 2 Avenue South downtown. Following an investigation and remediation of material because of asbestos contamination, investigators determined the fire had been deliberately set. The site has since been cleared.
Police subsequently identified a suspect, and on April 6 Big Swan was arrested without incident and charged.
Less than a month earlier fire destroyed the historic Bow On Tong building just a block to the east of the hotel. What remained of the building had to be demolished before investigators could safely do their job, and because of the extensive damage the cause of the fire could not be determined.
Police suspected the Bow On Tong fire was also deliberately set and they identified a person of interest, but there was insufficient evidence to lay criminal charges. There isn’t any evidence to suggest the two fires were connected, police said.
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