By Maria Boynton

Crack cocaine and alcohol were his drugs of choice. Basil Eleby says it was a “cycle of addiction”, and that he used crack and alcohol daily. But, that was then, and now, he says he no longer feels that he’s in a “prison of addiction.” His life, of being homeless and living under a bridge, was never the same after a massive blaze caused steel beams to buckle and sent a portion of I-85 in Atlanta crashing down on the evening of March 30, 2017. Two fellow homeless people told investigators that Eleby ignited the blaze that consumed other flammable items that were being stored under the bridge by the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT).

basil eleby 1 mb Basil Eleby Says Hes No Longer In A Prison Of Addiction

Basil Eleby (seen inside Sankova United Church of Christ in Atlanta,GA) has reached an agreement and will not be prosecuted for arson and criminal damage in the fire that caused the collapse of I-85. Eleby will go through an 18-month diversion program for his addiction. (Credit: Maria Boynton/Entercom Atlanta)


Eleby was charged with setting the fire. To this day, he maintains his innocence, “I didn’t this”, and he adds, “there’s no way I’m going to admit to nothing.”
basil eleby 3 mb e1513115860922 Basil Eleby Says Hes No Longer In A Prison Of Addiction

I-85 fire suspect Basil Eleby (r) is show with Rev. Derrick Rice (l), Pastor of Sankova United Church of Christ in Atlanta, GA.
Rice believes that Eleby is “just another man of color who was set up.” (Credit: Maria Boynton/Entercom Atlanta)


Eleby says he always prayed that God would deliver him from the lifestyle of drugging and drinking. He has been in treatment for months, and not without struggle. A judge threatened to send him to jail after he tested positive for cocaine, and another time for alcohol. Each time prosecutors said he deserved another chance. Instead of going to prison, Eleby is being allowed to participate in an accountability court program. It’s designed to focus on what may have lead to one’s actions, rather than putting them behind bars.

Not only does Eleby thank his legal team, he says he’s also grateful to Sankofa Church, his counselors, to D&K Suit City for the clothing, and to the community for supporting him.

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