News

Judge Orders $36.6 Million in Restitution from Teen Who Started Forest Fire. Says He Can Make Payments

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

On Monday, Judge John A. Olson issued his decision regarding the penalty a 15-year-old boy should face for starting the massive Eagle Creek Fire in September. The boy was tossing fireworks while hiking through the area, igniting a blaze that caused millions of dollars in damages and resulted in 11 restitution claims.

Olson ordered the Vancouver teen to pay $36,618,330.24 for the actions that started the Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon, according to a report by AZ Family. In total, over 48,000 acres burned in the fire.

Of the 11 restitution claims filed, only two were thrown out by Olson. The remaining claims were filed by various parties, including the US Forest Service, Oregon Department of Transportation, and a range of other victims whose properties were damaged by the blaze.

In his opinion, Olson stated that he was “satisfied that the restitution ordered in this case bears a sufficient relationship to the gravity of the offenses for which the youth was adjudicated.”

Four days prior to the announcement, the boy’s lawyer stated that he believed the restitution amount was “absurd” and argued it was unconstitutional.

Olson wrote, “The court is persuaded that an award of more than $36 million in restitution does not violate either the state or federal constitution.”

Olson did acknowledge that the teen cannot pay the amount in full. He subsequently authorized the Hood River Juvenile Department to create a payment schedule, allowing the boy to address his restitution in installments.

“The court can grant full or partial satisfaction of the restitution judgment after 10 years if the youth successfully completes probation, does not commit additional offenses, and complies with the payment plans,” wrote Olson.

The teen pleaded guilty to 12 charges in February, including criminal mischief and reckless burning on public land. He apologized in court and received a sentence of five years of probation along with 1,920 hours of community service, which he is to perform with the Forest Service.