Eagle Creek Fire teen ordered to pay $36 million

Oregon
Eagle Creek Fire, September 5 2017. (KOIN)_514431

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Circuit Court Judge John Olson issued his restitution opinion for the teenager who pleaded guilty to starting the Eagle Creek Fire last summer, ordering him to pay $36 million.

The teenage Eagle Creek Fire suspect speaks with officers the day the fire began. (KOIN)

The teen was in court on Thursday for a restitution hearing, where 11 different claims were submitted from different agencies and companies totaling $36 million. The teen’s attorney argued the number was “cruel and unusual.”

The judge said in his opinion that the judgment does not violate the constitution and “is clearly proportionate to the offense because it does not exceed the financial damages caused by the youth.”

The Eagle Creek Fire started on Sept. 2, 2017 and burned 48,000 acres of forest land. The 15-year-old pleaded guilty to charges in February.

The court acknowledged the teen cannot pay the full judgment at once, let alone in his lifetime, so the Hood River Juvenile Department is working out an affordable sum and will create a payment plan.

“If the youth wants to appeal this judgemental, there’s a lawful mechanism for him to do that, then they’ll get a statewide answer from the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court,” Phil Lemman, Oregon Judicial Department spokesman, said.

The court can grant a full or partial satisfaction of the restitution after 10 years if the teen completes probation, does not commit additional offenses and complies with payment plan.

A time lapse of the Eagle Creek Fire. (Oca Hoeflein)

“The goal in this is to not get every last dollar the youth will make or ever will, but it will provide a structure so victims are acknowledged in their loss and the payments are made so that the youth has the ability to do that, and also to reform him, and also to deter criminal conduct,” Lemman said.

Lemman also told KOIN 6 News that the teen’s parents aren’t liable in this case — but it could be different story if the victims file a civil suit.

While $36 million may seem like a lot of money, many victims of the fire are still extremely angry and feel it’s not nearly enough. 

During the restitution hearing Thursday, Paul Smith hoped to meet the teen and tell him how much the fire devastated his family — however, he didn’t get that chance when the 15-year-old didn’t show up.

“I’ll mention to him, look him in the face and say ‘That horse is dead because of you,'” Smith said.

The court awarded restitution to the state in the amount of $36,618,330.24 on behalf of the following victims in the following amounts:

$5,000 to Iris Schenk

$8,111.44 to Allstate Insurance

$31,550.90 to Oregon State Parks

$100,000 to Heuker Properties

$168,000 to Trail Club of Oregon

$1,048,877.52 to Union Pacific Railroad

$1,643,035.38 to Oregon State Fire Marshall

$12,500,000 to ODOT

$21,113,755 to US Forest Service

“In short, I’m satisfied that the restitution ordered in this case bears a sufficient relationship to the gravity of the offenses for which the youth was adjudicated,” the judge wrote. 

 

Follow Eileen Park on Twitter @EileenParkTV 
 

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