Ravalli County Officials Criticized For Roaring Lion Fire Plea Deal
Three young Ravalli County men recently accepted a plea agreement for felony and misdemeanor negligent arson in the Roaring Lion Fire, but that agreement has come under fire by some in the area.
Ravalli County Attorney Bill Fulbright said the evidence presented did not show any criminal intent by the defendants.
"None of the evidence suggested that they did anything intentional other than camp overnight," Fulbright said. "They were charged with negligent arson, endangering property and people. We concluded those cases on Monday with what are called deferred prosecution agreements. That means that I, the prosecutor, agreed to defer prosecuting the defendants if they comply with certain conditions."
Fulbright detailed the conditions imposed on the defendants.
"One was restitution," he said. "Recognizing that we would never be able to collect the entire amount of the fire's cost, which was around $15 million, so we looked for other, creative ways to send a message, so they've agreed for the next five years to pay 10 percent of their adjusted gross income as restitution. They've agreed to each spend 300 hours of community service, that's 100 hours for each of the next three summers with the Forest Service."
Fulbright said his office has received criticism regarding the plea deals.
"There are people who believe there should be harsher consequences and they've all spoken to the media," he said. "However, there are also people who have said there should have been no charges filed against the defendants, saying 'why am I singling out these three when they really did nothing that is different from most people when they camp out'."
Fulbright said insurance companies and private citizens can pursue restitution in civil court, but he has not personally heard of any such actions yet.