Advanced Age a Factor, but Judge Still Sentences Man to 16 Years in Prison for Motel Arson


By Taylor Smith and Ivan Villegas

WOODLAND, CA – The accused received his final prison sentence Friday morning here in Yolo County Superior Court for his arson conviction from last year, which included starting a fire in an occupied motel and tampering with the smoke detectors, endangering motel tenants.

Judge Peter Williams ultimately ruled the accused’s sentence to be 16 years in state prison with 299 days of credit.

This sentence was not easily agreed upon, however. Initially, the accused was supposed to receive 30 years in prison, which was determined to be essentially the same as a life sentence because he is almost 70 years old.

Judge Williams proposed that the accused’s age and health will mitigate his threat to society once he gets out of prison—if he gets out of prison.

Before making his final statement, however, the judge first wanted to hear from both sides. He started with Deputy Public Defender Joseph Gocke, who advocated for the accused to receive probation, informing the court that the accused would be willing to partake in psychiatric and substance use counseling.

Given the accused’s advanced age, Gocke also asked that the court reflect on the impact that the accused’s life decisions have had on the state of his overall well-being, as he allegedly contracted COVID-19 while in custody and nearly died.

Judge Williams ultimately disagreed with Gocke’s recommendation that the accused receive probation, arguing, “This is not a probation case by any stretch of the imagination.”

Understanding that probation was a long shot, Gocke recommended a five-year sentence that would be doubled to 10 years. He maintained that sentence was reasonable given the accused’s age, and that nobody was killed or hospitalized, and the prior strike that resulted in the doubling of the sentence happened more than 15 years ago.

Deputy District Attorney Carolyn Palumbo asserted the accused be held accountable for his relentless actions regardless of his past, present, or future.

She proposed the upper term for his crimes be imposed on the basis of “the vulnerability of the victims, the callousness of the crimes, and [the accused’s] horrendous record that goes back to literally the Kennedy administration.”

Palumbo reminded the court of the accused’s past, citing, “His record is really, really, really bad, and he was just off parole for two years when this happened.”

She added that if the judge does not impose the upper sentence the accused will likely commit another crime as soon as he has the chance.

She insisted the accused would still be a threat to public safety even after his prison term is complete, stating, “He was 66 years old when he lit the motel on fire, so the fact that he would be an elderly man when he would be released…I think he would still be a danger.”

Judge Williams disagreed with her statement that he would continue to be a danger, but agreed that he should receive the upper term sentence for his crimes.

Ultimately, the accused received an eight-year sentence that was doubled for prior strikes and aggravated circumstances of disabling the fire detection devices, which the judge determined shows harmful intent toward the other people in the motel.


About The Author

Taylor is a second year student at UC Davis pursuring a degree in Communication with a minor in Philosophy. She plans to graduate in 2023 and hopes to attend law school post-graduation to explore her many passions.

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2 thoughts on “Advanced Age a Factor, but Judge Still Sentences Man to 16 Years in Prison for Motel Arson”

  1. Gracyann Joslin

    I have been following this case for some time now… feel like theres better ways to help the accused such as mental health/ Psychiatric programs opposed to locking him up… is that really reform ?

    1. Taylor Smith Post author

      agreed!! I definitely think a better compromise could have been made in terms of mental health treatment, but his history was a huge factor in the argument. At least they were somewhat lenient with the length of his sentence, but it didn’t feel to me as if his attorney advocated strongly enough for psychiatric counseling. It seemed in a way that because of his age and his record, everyone involved in the trial had lost hope for him to improve through mental health programs and resorted to prison.

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