Dec. 24, 2003 -- The parents of a Maine boy serving time in federal prison said that prosecutors turned the crime into a federal case because their son destroyed property belonging to former President George H. Bush.
Patrick, whose last name is being withheld, was 14 when he and an older friend broke into a boathouse in Arundel, Maine, on July 7, 2002, to steal a marine radio.
When the two saw security cameras inside, they burned down the boathouse to destroy evidence that might link themselves to the crime. The fire burned down the building and several boats and engines stored there, including a boat engine owned by the elder Bush, who had a summer home in Kennebunkport, just seven miles from the boatyard.
The boy's parents, who live in Kennebunkport, first learned about the crime when U.S. Secret Service officers showed up at their home.
"There were Secret Service, ATF agents, fire marshals and local police," the boy's mother, Denise Collier said in an exclusive interview on Good Morning America. "They said that they had concerns that this could be a terrorist attack. They cited national security concerns."
‘No Rational Explanation’
Initially, the law enforcement officials said that a boat belonging to the president had been blown up, but she later learned that it was actually a boat engine. The boy's parents are appealing what they say is a harsh and unfair sentence of 30 months in federal prison. They believe their son is being singled out because of misplaced security concerns, politics and the desire by federal agents to send a message.
Patrick was prepared to plead guilty to local prosecutors, but the case was then turned over to federal prosecutors.
"There seems to be no rational explanation for why Patrick was turned over to the federal justice system," the boy's stepfather and appeals attorney Robert Mongue said. "Every time we asked, we got a different answer, and none of the answers made sense.
A Violent Crime
Paula Silsby, the chief federal prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney's office in Maine, declined to appear on Good Morning America, but did issue a statement. When asked whether the prosecution of the case was influenced by the former president's role, she said "absolutely not."
"Arson is a crime of violence," Silsby said.
Still, Mongue suspects politics are involved at some level, though he does not know where.
"I don't know where it starts, but I think [politics] is involved," Mongue said. There are many arsons committed by juveniles, who do not end up in the federal system. In fact, Patrick is only one of two juveniles from all of New England who are serving time in the federal system, and, there are only 234 juveniles in federal prisons nationwide, according to prison statistics.
The other young man involved, Christopher Conley, 19, of Kennebunkport, pleaded guilty last January to arson of a building used in interstate and foreign commerce and aiding and abetting such conduct. He was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $728,000 in restitution.
Since Patrick was committed to a maximum security facility this past August, his parents are only able to speak with him for five minutes once a week.
"He is scared. He's sad," Collier said. "He's not happy being where he is. It's a very tough situation."
His case goes to federal appeals court on Jan. 8. So Christmas won't be the same this year for the family or for Patrick, his mother said.
"Patrick tells us it is like any other day there," Collier said. "There's nothing special that takes place. For us, it will be bereft."