The most notable thing he’d earned in his life was a reputation as the man who burned down a bridge. But on Friday, 42-year-old Basil Eleby got a medal.
What We Know:
- In March of 2017, Eleby was accused of starting a fire that caused the I-85 bridge to collapse. Eleby was allegedly using dugs underneath the bridge. The sofa fire hopped to the pile of high-density plastic piping that Georgia Department of Transportation had been storing under the bridge for several years – a practice barred by other states.
- Living in a beat-up car at the time, Eleby was pinned for the crime by police and became the face of the disaster for thousands of angry commuters. Prosecutors agreed to drop the arson charges if Eleby completed an 18-month mental health and sobriety program. On Friday, he graduated from a transition program and celebrated his sobriety with a room full of advocates, supporters, and attorneys.
- A ceremony was held in the room where the Fulton Board of Commissioners meet. The Davis-Bozeman law firm sponsored a luncheon to commemorate Eleby’s sobriety.
- Eleby told CBS46, “I really doubted myself that I can stay sober this long. I had some good times. I had some real bad times where in the past, I probably would have given up. But God put those steps in my life to make sure that I don’t have no excuses to go back.”
- Eleby has been working part-time for the Davis Bozeman law firm in Decatur, Georgia, which was part of the legal team that provided him pro bono representation.
- Attorney Mawuli Davis, who originally agreed to take Eleby’s case, said, “Every time I talk to this brother I’m like brother there are so many people waiting for you needing you to blossom into the man you are moving towards.”
- Atlanta native Ashleigh Wise said this is also the first certificate she has earned in her 28 years. She described Eleby as a “sweetheart” who’d often slip her $5 after she lost her job.
- “I would say there is a God,” Eleby said to others who may be battling addiction. Don’t give up. Just take one step. Even if it’s just going to an AA meeting…You can’t always judge a book by its cover,” he added.
When asked Friday why he thought he was blamed, Eleby said: “I was in the right place at the right time…I looked the perfect part.”