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Juneau grand jury indicts Sitka man for arson

Posted: June 10, 2012 - 12:09am

A grand jury indicted a Sitka man for arson on Friday for allegedly starting a fire inside a Juneau business last month.

James L. Jespersen, 53, faces one count of first-degree arson and one count of third-degree criminal mischief, both felonies, in connection to a fire at Brick’s Marine Electronics store on Auke Bay Harbor Road on May 30, according to the indictment.

The indictment charges Jespersen intentionally damaged the property of the business owner by starting a fire, or causing an explosion, and thereby recklessly placing another person in danger of serious physical injury.

Prosecutors said earlier the business owner’s brother was sleeping in a room attached to the back of the shop at the time of the midnight fire. He escaped unscathed, police said.

First-degree arson is a class ‘A’ felony that can carry up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The criminal mischief charge stems from allegedly damaging the property of the business owner, Brick Lobaugh, in an amount of $500 or more, according to the indictment.

Third-degree criminal mischief is a class ‘C’ felony that can carry up to five years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

An indictment is a formal accusation of illegal activity. The district attorney’s office presents cases to the grand jury each Friday.

Prosecutors allege Jespersen fire-bombed the marine navigation store because he was mad Lobaugh didn’t fix his boat when it wouldn’t start.

Police were notified of the fire at about 11:53 p.m. May 30 when a caller who lived at the Auke Bay Apartments in the Don D. Statter Harbor Facilities reported hearing glass breaking and seeing someone lighting something on fire, according to a police release. A responding police officer discovered a fire inside the store and put out the flames with a portable fire extinguisher before the fire department arrived on scene.

Police arrested Jespersen, who was found near the scene on a boat in the harbor, sometime before 6 a.m. on May 31.

He was arraigned in Juneau District Court later that afternoon, although now that case will be closed out and re-opened in Juneau Superior Court. The new case is assigned to Judge Philip Pallenberg.

Jespersen told the court earlier his mailing address is in Sitka, but he lives on his boat, the Silver Surf, which is still currently in Auke Bay.

Jespersen is being held in custody in lieu of $500,000 cash bail. He is being represented by the Public Defender Agency.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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