Last of 3 men convicted in LA-area wildfire gets probation

Jun 1, 2015, 5:12 PM

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The last of three men convicted of starting an illegal campfire that later destroyed five homes east of Los Angeles was sentenced to probation on Monday, but he likely will be paying restitution the rest of his life.

U.S. District Court Judge George Wu sentenced Jonathan Jarrell to three years of probation Monday. Jarrell, 24, and two others convicted in the Colby fire also were ordered to pay $9.1 million in restitution to homeowners and agencies that fought the January 2014 blaze in the foothill suburb of Glendora.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office had originally recommended that Jarrell be sentenced to nearly four years behind bars.

Some residents affected by the Colby fire were outraged by the lack of prison for Jarrell, federal prosecutor Amanda Bettinelli said.

Some residents lost their homes, other houses were damaged by the fire, and the owners of all the remaining properties have to sandbag the neighborhood and worry about flooding and mudflows every time there’s a storm, Bettinelli said. The area is at an increased risk of flooding because the wildfire stripped the surrounding land of vegetation, which helps absorb rainfall and reduce runoff.

“I think for everyone there’s just a sense of trauma,” she said.

Jarrell’s attorney, John Hanusz, said he and Jarrell were grateful to the judge for the consideration he gave to their arguments. Hanusz declined to comment further.

Just before sentencing, Jarrell told the judge he was planning on going to college in hopes of helping troubled youths like himself.

The other two men convicted in the fire got five and six months in prison.

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Last of 3 men convicted in LA-area wildfire gets probation