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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Homeless Man Sentenced For Forest Fire

LOS ANGELES (CN) - A homeless man was sentenced to nearly 4 years in federal prison for setting two California wildfires, including the 2006 Day Fire, which injured 18 people and burned more than 162,000 acres.

U.S. District Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank also ordered Steven Emory Butcher, 49, to pay more than $100 million in restitution.

Butcher told the judge "If I would have been on the jury, I would have found myself guilty too," the U.S. Attorney's Office reported.

Butcher built a camp in a remote canyon in Sespe Wilderness, where he lived for part of the year. Burning debris there went out of control to become the Day Fire, which burned for nearly a month, mostly in Los Padres National Forest.

Butcher was diagnosed with schizophrenia and depression after he sought treatment for burns, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The jury deliberated for two hours before entering the guilty verdict, which included fault for the 2002 Ellis Fire that burned about 70 acres.

Butcher was convicted of two felony counts of setting fires and three misdemeanor counts of allowing a fire to escape control, building a fire in the national forest, and smoking in the national forest. He was sentenced to 45 months in prison.

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