Gallery Furniture fire trial delayed until March

February 22, 2011 10:03:39 AM PST
There is a new development in a high-profile arson case in Houston. The man accused of setting fire to Gallery Furniture will not go on trial this week as expected. Robert Gillham's attorney, Brett Polodsky, is still his attorney and any notion that he would represent himself is just not the case. The hearing scheduled to take place today was a pre-trial hearing. That did not happen.

Gillham has been in and out of the hospital in the last week with some sort of physical ailment. His attorney didn't elaborate much on that. But his attorney says under those conditions he is unfit for now to stand trial, especially a trial that promises to be quite publicized.

Polodosky says that would undoubtedly be very taxing on his client. The 68-year-old is accused of setting fire back in May of 2009. He is charged with arson. Investigators say he started the fire because he was angry at Jim McIngvale, otherwise known as 'Mattress Mac' for terminating him. He worked for Gallery Furniture for 18 years. The closure to this matter that both sides had hoped for -- for now will be delayed.

"There was going to be a pre-trial hearing. We were supposed to pick a jury tomorrow but he's had some medical problems and we discussed that with the court and obviously the court -- there were serious enough that we need to look further into it and we are going to do that and make a determination on when we can have this trial."

The case has been reset for March 24th. Both sides are going to re-assess the situation and the condition of Gillham at that time and decide where to go from there.


This case will be as high profile as the man whose store was burned down. Mattress Mack is the victim in this case. Despite his local fame, the defendant's attorney never asked for a change of venue.

It is rare that you won't find Jim McIngvale at the front of one of his stores -- that's where we found him Monday night; but over the next week or so, expect an absence.

"When they call me to come down there, I'll come down there, tell my story and tell the truth," McIngvale said.

McIngvale -- aka Mattress Mack -- will be a witness in the case against Robert Gillham, the 68-year-old former Gallery Furniture employee accused of starting this massive fire in 2009 that caused nearly $20 million in damage to his signature store.

"Everything here was smoke and water damage and every piece of furniture, every lamp, every picture had to be salvaged and that was an ordeal," McIngvale said.

It took a year and a half to rebuild and almost two years now to go to trial.

"We're ready for some closure on this and move forward," McIngvale said.

It is one thing Mattress Mack and defense attorney Brett Podolsky's client agree on.

"I think he (Gillham) really wants to get up there on the stand and tell his story," Podolsky said.

Since his arrest, Gillham has been in jail maintaining his innocence. State and federal investigators say he used an ignitable liquid to start the fire because he was so angry at McIngvale. His girlfriend allegedly revealed his plot.

Podolsky, Gillham's court-appointed attorney, isn't fazed by the accusations and surprisingly not even by McIngvale's celebrity.

"I bet if you took 10 people off the street right now and asked them, 'How do you feel about Jim McIngvale?' I bet it would be 50/50 people like him, people don't like him," Podolsky said. "There's always positive or negatives putting your face and your name out there as much as he does."

Podolsky says he's comfortable a Harris County jury can be fair.

Although there is a chance the trial won't start this week; he says Gillham was hospitalized for a couple days last week. He met with him Sunday and he still has some questions about whether he's both physically and mentally capable right now to stand trial.

No cameras are allowed in the courtroom but of course we'll be there for you.