Defendant Sentenced to Nearly 10 Years in Prison for 3-Acre Arson Fire, Theft – Claims ‘Upset About His Aunt Not Having Insurance’

By Stacie Guevara

SACRAMENTO, CA –Defendant Rafael Torres was sentenced to nine years and four months in state prison here in Sacramento County Superior Court Tuesday for committing arson on a field and a second-degree burglary in 2020.

Torres appeared before Judge Patrick Marlette for the burglary of a property management company called HSP Properties, one for arson, a misdemeanor and two additional business burglaries at Highlands Pet Hospital and a Rite Aid.

Deputy District Attorney Allison Wieder said it was further alleged that on May 2, 2005, Torres was convicted of a prior robbery, which ended up doubling his current sentence.

Judge Marlette dismissed the misdemeanor and the two business burglaries in light of the plea and in the interest of justice.

DDA Wieder explained Torres willfully and maliciously set fire to a forest land in North Highlands on or around Aug. 10, 2020. She said specifically, he used gasoline and a lighter to burn about three acres of a field of dried grass.

She said there was a transient, or homeless, camp located in the fire’s path, but the called fire crew was able to stop the blaze before it burned the camp.

DDA Wieder said fire experts determined the fire was intentionally set using a flammable device. She said Torres also admitted under a Mirandized statement to lighting the fire with an accelerant because “he was upset about his aunt not having insurance.”

Wieder said for the second charge, the defendant committed a second-degree burglary when he broke into HSP Properties in the middle of the night on or around July 27, 2020. Wieder said Torres stole deposit ledgers, boxes of paperwork and some petty cash.

Wieder explained the property owner identified the items found on Torres as being stolen from the property management company.

Judge Marlette told the defendant the punishment for the arson charge was two, four or six years in custody and because of his strike from 2005, it could get doubled, making 12 years in custody his possible maximum.

The judge explained for the burglary, the punishment is 16 months, two years or three years. On those two charges, his total exposure is 13 years and four months, with a fine of up to $10,000. Not to mention the restitution fine between $300 and $10,000 and victim restitution as determined by the court.

“Now instead of those 13 years and four months, what you’re going to get is nine years and four months,” Judge Marlette told the defendant, “But you’re also going to have to pay restitution to anybody who lost money on this, even on the dismissed cases.”

Judge Marlette told the defendant if he got convicted of a serious, violent felony and had these two strikes behind him, he could get a life term. He told him he wasn’t eligible for probation because of that prior strike.

“But even if you were eligible, I would not grant probation because of the facts and circumstances of these cases and your prior criminal history,” Judge Marlette said.

After doing some quick math, Judge Marlette ordered Torres to nine years and four months in state prison and noted he already has 745 days of conduct credit that was applied to his sentence.

Judge Marlette said for each case, Torres is ordered to pay a $300 restitution fine, a court facility fee and a $40 court construction fee. He added the defendant is ordered to pay restitution to HSP Properties, Highlands Pet Hospital and Rite Aid.

About The Author

Stacie Guevara (she/her) is a fourth-year at UC Davis majoring in Communication and minoring in Professional Writing. She is from the San Francisco Bay Area and is interested in going into journalism.

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