BOSTON — More than a dozen fire chiefs are preparing to protest a plea deal for two arson suspects accused in a devastating crime spree in southeastern Massachusetts.
Prosecutors say 46-year-old Mark Sargent and his 24-year-old stepson, Jeanmarie Louis, are linked to more than two dozen fires that were set in 2012.
In court Thursday, a judge offered three years in exchange for a guilty plea, but state Fire Marshal Stephen Coan says that’s not enough time.
“I am outraged at the plea deal offered,” Coan said in a statement. “Arson fires take a toll on our firefighters and are the type of fires that cause the most firefighter injuries. Arson fires tear at the very fabric of a community, burdening public safety resources, affecting tax revenues, jobs and creating blight.”
The district attorney asked for eight to 12 years, and Coan said that would be more fair.
Judge Carol Ball offered Sargent a prison sentence of two to three years and Louis a sentence of two and a-half years in exchange for guilty pleas.
“I understand what judge was saying and where she was coming from with sentencing guidelines. But I believe that she did state that she did pick most likely the middle of the road on the sentencing and she did state as we all know, there were approximately 30 fires in southeastern Massachusetts which they may have been linked to. We definitely would have preferred a sentence of the maximum,” said Whitman Fire Chief Timothy Grenno, who is president of Fire Chief’s Association of Plymouth County.
“The charge of arson violates your home it violates your business it violates your soul,” Grenno said. “For the judge to take the medium pathway of an arson charge is disrespectful to the fire service and fire investigators.”
Ralph Pratt’s boat was burned at Taylor’s Boatyard fire. He spoke after sentencing.
“I’m extremely disappointed with the sentence. It just doesn’t seem like it fits the crime. Anyway you cut it, three fires, seems like they got one year for each fire. The total monetary loss was $600,000. What’s the going rate? I don’t understand the sentencing guidelines,” he said.
“For the crimes that they did, the three different fires, they are dangerous. They put people’s lives at risk, the firefighters, the regular community, and I think they needed more time than that. But having said that, we deal with what we deal with,” District Attorney Tim Cruz said.