Don't Play with Fire
OREGON - May 23, 2018
15-year-old boy accidentally caused fire and now to pay $36 millions.
15-year-old boy from Washington plead guilty to eight counts of reckless burning of public and private property, two counts of depositing burning materials on forest land, as well criminal mischief and reckless endangerment of others. The devastating fire raged in Oregon and Washington for almost three months in autumn 2017. He admitted to throwing a firework while hiking on 2 September 2017 into tinder-dry Eagle Creek Canyon.
Hood River County Circuit Judge John A. Olson ordered the boy to pay $36,618,330 in restitution for “recklessly” igniting a fire that scorched around 48,000 acres, destroying a lot of forest and several households. The local juvenile department are to come up with a payment schedule.
“In short, I’m satisfied that the restitution ordered in this case bears a sufficient relationship to the gravity of the offenses for which the youth was adjudicated,” Judge John A. Olson said in a memo setting the restitution.
The Judge acknowledged the young man can’t pay the sum in full. The state law allows payment to stop after 10 years if a juvenile defendant completes probation, doesn’t commit other offenses and complies with payment plans.
The teen was sentenced to five years of probation and 1,920 hours of community service with the U.S. Forest Service. He also was ordered to write apology letters to 152 people trapped on the Eagle Creek trail because of the spreading flames, the city of Cascade Locks, the Forest Service, Oregon State Parks, the Oregon Department of Transportation, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission and many others.
The court awarded restitution to the state on behalf of the below victims:
- Iris Schenk, whose Warrendale house burned down: $5,000
- Allstate Insurance: $8,111.44
- Oregon State Parks: $31,550.90
- Heuker Properties: $100,000
- Trail Club of Oregon: $168,000
- Union Pacific Railroad: $1,048,877.52
- Oregon State Fire Marshal: $1,643,035.38
- Oregon Department of Transportation: $12.5 million
- U.S. Forest Service: $21,113,755
The court did not award restitution to Amanda Rosenkoetter and Anne Coxen, who requested $4,563.72 and $8,793.14.
— Source: Court records
Jack Morris, the boy’s lawyer, called the restitution’s amount "absurd" and "absolutely silly". He asked the judge to apply the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits the federal government from imposing excessive bail, excessive fines, or cruel and unusual punishments. He urged to impose a "reasonable and rational'' restitution.
He noted "the court's hands were tied by the statute with respect to ordering the full amount of the legally appropriate restitution" and that a "rational" sum would be suitable but that "it's difficult to imagine anything more pointless then ordering an adolescent to pay 36 million in restitution."
A supervisor from Hood River County Juvenile Department, who will be supervising the teen’s 5 years of probation, declined to comment.
Why Should I Care?
The mother always says: “Don’t play with fire”. You can play, okay, but remember be ready to pay. Either way it’s better not to play.