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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Oregon

Monday, March 30, 2015

Man Pleads to Accessory to Arson Resulting in Personal Injury

Michael Duncan admits his role in the arson that destroyed Pal’s Shanty Tavern, a 90 year-old business in Northeast Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. – Today before U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman, Michael James Duncan, 32, pled guilty to accessory after the fact to arson resulting in personal injury.  He is currently in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service, and his sentencing is scheduled for July 6, 2015.

By his guilty plea, Duncan admitted that on November 15, 2013, he knew that Marcus Tyler had committed an arson inside Pal’s Shanty Tavern in NE Portland that resulted in extensive burns to Tyler.  Duncan further admitted that he assisted Tyler in order to hinder and prevent Tyler’s apprehension, trial and punishment.  Tyler pled guilty in federal court on November 5, 2014, to arson resulting in personal injury.  He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 24, 2015, and faces a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years in prison.

With respect to Duncan’s plea to accessory after the fact to arson, Duncan drove Tyler away from Pal’s Shanty Tavern after the arson, which occurred at approximately 1:24 a.m. on November 15, 2013.  Tyler was severely burned during the course of the arson after slipping on gasoline he had poured on the floor to ignite the fire.  However, instead of taking Tyler to the hospital, and in order to avoid detection by the police, Duncan drove Tyler back to his house in SE Portland and attempted to treat Tyler’s burns without medical attention.  Eventually, over an hour after the arson, Duncan called 911 to ask for an ambulance to transport Tyler to the hospital.  Duncan, who has been friends with Tyler since high school, falsely told the 911 operator and police that he did not know Tyler and that he had simply found a badly burned, naked man in the middle of the street in SE Portland.   Duncan also instructed his girlfriend to lie to the police about the circumstances around the arson at Pal’s Shanty Tavern.

“The arson fire at Pal’s Shanty caused catastrophic losses for the property owner, and the neighborhood lost a treasured establishment.  The Fire Investigations Unit did what it is highly trained to do - uncover the root of arson and help bring the perpetrators to justice,” stated Portland Fire & Rescue Chief Erin Janssens.

Duncan faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, a fine of up to $125,000, and three years of supervised release.

This case was investigated by the Portland Fire Bureau and the Portland Police Bureau.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Pamala Holsinger and Craig Gabriel.

Updated February 4, 2016