Teenager sentenced for house fire

A teenager who accidentally started a fire that destroyed a Honeymoon Bay house was sentenced to juvenile detention Thursday.

The boy pleaded guilty in Island County Superior Court to criminal trespass in the second degree and reckless burning in the first degree.

The prosecution and defense presented competing arguments to the judge over whether the 16-year-old boy should receive a deferred disposition, which is an alternative to confinement and allows the charge be wiped from his record if he doesn’t get into other trouble during a supervision period.

This is the most common outcome with first-time juvenile offenders because the law states that there is a “strong presumption” that a deferred disposition will be granted.

Deputy Prosecutor Tamara Fundrella said, however, the boy deserves to be an exception to the rule because of the “incredibly serious” nature of the crime.

The teenager, she said, was “quite literally playing with fire” when he burned down a house that had been the owner’s childhood home and was also in the World’s Fair in Seattle. The victim felt a deferred disposition would be tantamount to the boy “getting away with it,” she said.

The boy was 15 years old when the incident occurred last August. Fundrella explained that he invited a friend to come with him into the unoccupied house that he and other juveniles had been inside earlier.

The teenager was lighting matches and throwing them. His friend told him to stop when they were inside the house, but the boys lit one last match and threw it. It landed inside a cardboard box that contained a roll of paper towels, which started on fire.

The boy tried to put out the fire by kicking it out the door, but it fell underneath the porch and started the house on fire.

Fundrella recommended that the boy receive 15 days of detention, 300 hours of community service and 12 months supervision.

The boy’s attorney, Craig Platt of Coupeville, argued that his client should receive a deferred disposition for making “a stupid mistake.” He said the boy takes the matter very seriously and is very remorseful; he got a job the minute he turned 16 in order to pay his legal obligations.

“He needs a second chance,” Platt said.

“He needs a break here.”

In the end, Judge Alan Hancock said the effect of the crime was a major consideration in deciding the sentence.

Hancock said he “could not in good conscience” ignore the tremendous damage cause by the teenager’s reckless action.

Hancock denied the deferred disposition, noting that it’s a fairly rare action for him to take.

The judge sentenced the boy to 12 days of detention, 250 hours of community service and 12 months of supervision.

In addition, the boy was ordered to pay more than $10,000 in restitution, which was the cost of tearing down the house.

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