March 2, 2014
The state fire marshal struck out angrily at a Plymouth Superior Court judge’s decision to offer sentences he deemed too lenient to an alleged serial arsonist and his accomplice if they plead guilty to arson charges Friday.
“I am outraged at the plea deal offered today to this father and stepson team of serial arsonists,” Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan said in a statement Tuesday.
“Arson is not a victimless crime, and a series of arsons creates an understandable fear that robs people of feeling secure in their own homes, where they should feel safest,” he said. “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.”
Prosecutors in Brockton Superior Court had urged Judge Carol Ball Tuesday to sentence Mark Sargent, 46, to up to 12 years in prison for fires he allegedly started at an unoccupied Scituate vacation home, a Marshfield marina, and a West Bridgewater building that was under construction. They also asked that she sentence Sargent’s stepson, Jeanmarie Louis, 24, who was only charged in connection with the West Bridgewater fire, to 4 to 6 years. But Ball said Sargent would serve up to three years in state prison, and Louis, up to 2½ years in a house of correction.
“Arson’s a scary thing,” said Ball, who said that sentencing guidelines suggested shorter sentences are appropriate. Ball denied a request by Sargent’s defense attorney to allow his client to serve the two-to-three-year stretch in a house of correction, saying it was important “to send a message that it’s a state’s prison violation.”
The two Middleborough men were arrested following an intensive investigation by State Police assigned to the fire marshal’s office, which took the lead in tracking down suspects in about 30 suspicious fires at commercial or unoccupied structures in Southeastern Massachusetts.
Bridget Norton Middleton, spokeswoman for the Plymouth district attorney, said that 14 of those fires occurred in Plymouth County. Prosecutors have charged Sargent in three of the fires and Louis in one.
In court Tuesday, Assistant District Attorney Suzanne McDonough said the other fires followed a similar pattern and involved Duraflame logs ignited with gasoline.