New Jersey cop says didn't set blaze at police captain's house

NEWARK Fri May 24, 2013 4:48pm EDT

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NEWARK (Reuters) - A New Jersey police officer on Friday pleaded not guilty to charges related to a suspected arson fire early this week at the home of an Edison police captain who was inside with his family.

Officer Michael Dotro, 35, was arrested at his home in Manalapan, New Jersey, on Thursday and charged with five counts of attempted murder and one count of aggravated arson, for allegedly setting the fire, according to a statement from county prosecutors.

Superior Court Judge Vincent LeBlon put bail for Dotro at $5 million, and said that if Dotro posts bail he will have to surrender his firearms and passport and have no contact with the victim.

Prosecutors said that police, fire and paramedics responded at 3:59 a.m. on Monday to a blaze outside the Monroe Township home of Captain Mark Anderko, who was inside with his wife, two children and 92-year-old mother.

Officials said the blaze, which they believe was intentionally set, was put out within 10 to 15 minutes and no injuries were reported. The fire caused extensive damage to the house.

Lawrence Bitterman, attorney for Dotro, said his client had nothing to do with the incident.

"He told me the thought of anyone doing this makes him sick to his stomach," Bitterman told Reuters. "They've got the wrong guy."

Dotro, a nine-year veteran of the force, was suspended from his job with pay, according to prosecutors.

Bitterman said he plans to file a formal bail application for Dotro. Prosecutors said the investigation is continuing.

(Editing by Scott Malone and Leslie Adler)

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