A Casper man who was arrested in July admitted Wednesday that he took steps toward setting fire to an occupied apartment building before deciding that he couldn't go through with it.

Harley Jay Bushnell, 26, pleaded guilty to a single count of first-degree arson. The crime is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

Assistant District Attorney Dan Itzen told District Judge Daniel Forgey that in exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors would recommend a sentence of no more than 10 years in prison and dismiss a separate criminal case in which Bushnell was charged with felony driving under the influence.

At Bushnell's sentencing hearing, the defense would be free to argue for whatever sentence they would like, including probation.

"No fire was actually started, your honor," Bushnell told Forgey during Wednesday's change-of-plea hearing. "Gasoline was covered on the porch and steps area, that was it."

"At one point he intended, but he couldn't go through with it," public defender Rob Oldham added.

Bushnell was arrested late on the night of Saturday, July 21 after Casper police officers responded to an apartment building. A woman told police that Bushnell was her estranged domestic partner and father to her three children.

Bushnell, the woman reported, had walked up the steps to her apartment building with a small gas can, then poured gasoline on her front porch. She told police that she saw a flash and heard the sound of a lighter being struck before Bushnell left the area.

"I got into an argument with the mother of my kids while I was drinking, and the alcohol took over and my anger got the best of me," Bushnell told Forgey.

Bushnell remained in custody at the time of Wednesday's court hearing. His sentencing date will be set following the completion of a presentence investigation report.

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