$26K restitution ordered in arson case
A Juneau judge ordered a woman to pay about $26,000 in restitution to the company whose equipment was damaged in the Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park arson fire two summers ago.
Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg ruled in a restitution hearing Wednesday that Ashley Rae Johnston, 20, owes $26,186.96 to Shaw Sports Turf (formerly called Shaw Sportex), as well as about $430 to the City and Borough of Juneau.
Johnston was one of the three defendants charged in connection to the June 19, 2012, fire at the city-owned park, which damaged equipment being used to replace the turf football field. The damaged equipment, including a John Deere tractor and a drop spreader, belonged to the Georgia-based company.
A jury acquitted Johnston of arson after a week-long trial last February, but she was found guilty of criminal mischief and misdemeanor criminal trespass. She was later ordered to serve four months in jail as a condition of probation.
The other two defendants, Ryan M. Martin and Dillon West, both 25, have yet to stand trial and are slated to do so this June.
The amount of money Johnston was ordered to pay —$26,615.20 in all — is owed jointly and severally. That means, if convicted, the other two defendants will also owe that same amount.
Yakutat man pleads out before gun trial
A 39-year-old Yakutat resident facing a felony assault charge for threatening a man with a gun has pleaded out on the eve of trial.
Jason T. Yoshimi, who initially described himself as the victim, took a deal offered by prosecutors and pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of misdemeanor assault. He changed his plea Feb. 7, a week before his trial was slated to take place in Juneau Superior Court.
Prosecutors said a man broke a window at Yoshimi’s home on Oct. 20, and Yoshimi responded by getting his gun from his truck to search for him. Defense attorney Campbell Jackson said, to his client’s credit, that Yoshimi had emptied the bullets out of the gun before he searched, and then immediately surrendered to police when they arrived on scene. Yoshimi told the Empire he was acting in defense of his property and himself.
The plea deal in place calls for Yoshimi to complete an alcohol treatment program at Sundown Ranch in Washington. If he successfully completes the program, he will avoid jail time by receiving credit for time served at the ranch. If he does not complete the program, the deal calls for him to serve 100 days in jail.
Judge Louis Menendez scheduled a sentencing hearing to take place next month after the 21-day alcohol treatment program is scheduled to be completed.
Woman pleads guilty to attempted arson for starting home fire
A 44-year-old Juneau woman has pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted arson for starting a fire at her and her ex-husband’s home, a move prosecutors described as a drunken, angry ploy to get her ex’s attention after an argument over who owned the house.
Lisa Ritter pleaded guilty to the reduced felony charge Tuesday in Juneau Superior Court before Judge Philip Pallenberg. A sentencing hearing is scheduled to take place in April.
Prosecutors said Ritter set fires in the Point Stephens Road home on Nov. 3, then woke her ex up to tell him what she did. The man had extinguished the fires by the time Capital City Fire and Rescue arrived on scene.
An affidavit said the couple had been divorced since 1991 but still live together, possibly due to a property dispute.
“She lit the fire because they were arguing about who owned the house and she decided “**** this, I’ll burn it down”,” prosecutors wrote in an affidavit.
Court documents indicate the woman did not really believe the house would burn down because it’s made of hardy plank.
“She just wanted to get (her ex-husband’s) attention,” prosecutors wrote.
Ritter was originally charged by prosecutors with first-degree arson (an “A” felony that can carry up to 20 years in prison), but was indicted by a grand jury on lesser charge, second-degree arson (a “B” felony that can fetch up to 10 years in prison).
The reduced charge she pled to (attempted arson in the second degree) is a class “C” felony, which can carry up to five years in prison. For someone without any prior felony convictions, it has a presumptive sentencing range of zero to two years.
Attorneys said alcohol played a role in the incident — she was intoxicated when the fire crews and police arrived at her home. But since her arrest, she has already completed a 20-day inpatient alcohol treatment program at Rainforest Recovery Center in Juneau.