The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

October 15, 2012

Firefighters ordered to pay $300,000 for arsons


The Daily Item

— DANVILLE — Two former firefighters will spend nearly five years to 18 years in state prison for setting fire to homes, a barn and a field.

Zane Patrick Snyder, 19, of 948 Sodom Road, Milton, was sentenced Monday to 58 months to 17 years in jail.

Co-conspirator Charles William Jacobs, 35, of 118 N. Fifth St. Apt. 1, Lewisburg, was sentenced to 81 months to 18 years in jail.

The former Potts Grove Fire Company members were also ordered to pay restitution totaling nearly $300,000 to victims. They previously pleaded guilty to the arsons as part of plea bargains.

Liberty Township Fire Chief Larry Brown told Columbia-Montour Counties President Judge Thomas James Jr. the arsons put 80 to 100 firefighters at risk “and endangered an awful lot of people and lives. We were fortunate only a truck was damaged. They put a lot of lives on the line. The whole county was in turmoil. I hope justice is served.”

He spoke during sentencing for each man.

Both defendants apologized for what they did.

“I want to apologize to everyone involved and to all the victims and to my family. I shouldn’t have done what I did. I apologize to everybody,” said Snyder, represented by Attorney Michael Dennehy.

Jacobs, represented by Attorney Leslie Bryden, also asked to withdraw his previous guilty plea to a charge of false reports. The judge allowed him to do so and scheduled that case for trial.

Montour County District Attorney Rebecca Warren said Jacobs and Snyder terrorized the county for three months earlier this year, risking the lives of volunteer firefighters and livestock by using lighters and molotov cocktails to set the fires, she said.

She said a letter from Snyder’s mother stated her son was unemployed, hadn’t finished high school and chose the wrong people to follow. His mother believes he has a learning disability and mild brain damage, she said. Snyder cooperated with police more than Jacobs.

The arsons caused $231,499 in damage to John Tobias’ home, $41,810 in damage to the Jenkins pole barn, $21,132 to an East End Fire Company tanker, $23,724 to the Stark home and $500 to the Johnson field.

Brown explained the fire truck was damaged when it slid off an icy road. “It was very cold and very icy,” he said.

Snyder’s sentence for the Tobias fire was a $300 fine, two years to five years in jail, paying restitution and credit for time served in jail from March 26. For conspiracy, he was fined $300 and given a concurrent jail term of one to two years. For the barn fire, he was fined $300 and ordered to serve a consecutive sentence of one year to four years in jail and pay restitution. For risking a catastrophe, he was fined $300 and jailed three months to two years on a concurrent term. For the Starks fire, he was fined $300 and ordered to serve one year to four years in jail consecutively and to pay restitution.

For reckless endangering, he was fined $300 and sentenced to a concurrent term of one month to two years in prison. For the field fire, he was fined $300 and told to serve nine months to two years in jail consecutively and to pay restitution. For false reports, he was fined $300 and given a consecutive term of one month to two years.

Jacobs said he wanted to withdraw his guilty plea to false alarms because he understood the call required services by a gas company which wouldn’t make it a false alarm.

Warren opposed it saying a plea agreement had been negotiated in exchange for not processing certain charges. She said she didn’t think withdrawing the plea was appropriate at that time.

Jacobs also apologized, saying he was “really sorry for what happened. I know I can’t take anything back.”

Warren said Jacobs was 35 at the time, unemployed, the father of five and not cooperative with police.

“Up until today, we did not see signs of remorse,” she said. Bryden said he didn’t show remorse because he was told earlier by others not to do so.

The judge said he was sentencing Jacobs in the aggravated range of sentencing because Snyder was younger and had a learning disability. “You’re older and should have known better. Your sentence is somewhat higher because of that,” he told Jacobs.

For the Tobias blaze, James fined him $300, sentenced him in the aggravated range to three years to six years in jail, ordered him to pay restitution and gave him credit for time served in jail from March 26 or 214 days in jail. For the Stark house fire, he was fined $300 and ordered to serve two years to five years consecutively in jail and pay restitution.

For reckless endangering, he was fined $300 and given a concurrent term or one month to two years in jail. On a conspiracy charge, he was fined $300 and ordered to serve one year to two years in jail concurrently. For the barn fire and damage to the fire truck, he was fined $300 and ordered to spend one year to five years in jail consecutively and to pay restitution. On a charge of risking a catastrophe, Jacobs was fined $300 and given a concurrent term of three months to two years in jail. He was fined $300 and given a consecutive term of nine months to two years and ordered to pay restitution for the field fire.

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