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Justice Served? Homeless Arsonist Ordered to Pay $101 Million

Steven Emory Butcher sleeps in a tent, but the law seems to think he's a millionaire. After setting fires in 2002 and 2006 that destroyed 160,000 acres of national forest, the homeless man was sentenced to four years in prison and $101 million in fines.

While in prison, the arsonist will have to pay $100 each year toward his fine. Once he's out, he must contribute $50 a month for the rest of his life. Right now Steven lives on government disability insurance, but if he gets a job, his payments will be adjusted accordingly.

Since the law requires anyone who has damaged property repay the cost of the lost property to the victim, the judge ignored how much Steven could afford. While it's crucial to send a message to arsonists that such destructive and dangerous activity will be punished, do you think the punishment fit the crime in this case?


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i-am-awesomeness i-am-awesomeness 8 years
Yes, I think he should have to pay back the money, IF he is sane. if he really and truly has a mental illness, then he should still have to pay some form of restitution but just not that much. Innocent taxpayers should not have to be inconvenienced in any way. This man is responsible for millions of dollars in property damage to innocent homeowners who most likely lost a lot of cherished family possesions. He has to pay his debt to society.
jemimajane78 jemimajane78 8 years
Four years in prison AND the fine is pretty intense. I'd hope he is rehabilitated first and foremost becasue he's not being given to much to look forward to! A tricky one!
True-Song True-Song 8 years
The idea that being in jail is better than being homeless rubs me the wrong way. It's about freedom.
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
I'm fine with this decision. Of course the full amount will never be paid, but I think it's important he receives the same sentence someone else who isn't homeless would have gotten.
popgoestheworld popgoestheworld 8 years
Although the total fine is huge, they're setting the actual payments low enough that he should be able to afford them. Why a recidivist arsonist is only spending 4 years in jail is a little beyond me though.
bastylefilegirl bastylefilegirl 8 years
I understand how his homelessness and him getting free room and board may seem like a perk and not a punishment but the law is for " all men" who are deemed competent you shouldn't maneuver the law for each person because in doing so you will have a judicial system that is unbalanced. I mean by doing something other than what the law describes in this case jail time and a fine you set a precedent that as long as your homeless you don't have to face the same justice system as those of us with homes. I do agree that in addition to his current sentence that community services would be great. By the way prison like the streets is not a nice place so although " 3 hots and a cot" is a perk, potentially getting shanked, raped, among other things can't be fun?
bastylefilegirl bastylefilegirl 8 years
I think it's fair and as long as he's sane I don't' have any problem with it. I think this is a case of "mandatory sentencing" the judge had not other choice but to jail and fine this person.The damage that he caused, and the time and energy that the fire department put in to this is not even really measurable not to mention that the firefighters put their lives in danger. What's funny is if he gets out of jail and fails to find a job/fails to pay the fine he could be sent right back to jail for parole violation.
silversnowflake silversnowflake 8 years
Perhaps... The sentence will teach the man something. (what? I really do not know.) On the other hand, free food and board, tv,etc. All of that seems like a bonus and not punishment. I totally agree that community service would be much better. Some inmates are required to do community service though so maybe that is one of the places that the law will get him.
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
i do think that this ruling was befitting of the crime, regardless of the fact that he's homeless. if it was ruled that it was arson, then he knew what he was doing and that in itself needs to be punished. i think that by saying since someone may be homeless, that they can't be fined etc, or accountable, then that's sending the wrong message.
Shadowdamage Shadowdamage 8 years
As far as I can see (and I am in a cynical mood today) some homeless dude just got famous - and room and board for four years. Fining him may be the law, but I think forcing him to assist with the clean up would be more effective, and figure out why the hell he did it would be more useful. :P
bellaressa bellaressa 8 years
He should also be helping with the clean up efforts. Community service is another great option he can be doing in addition.
brookberrys brookberrys 8 years
Regarding what Jessiebanana said, the guy is homeless, so I don't see how giving him more time in prison is a punishment. Free meals, warm bed to sleep in at night, TV...all paid for by tax payers. What other options do they have, except for maybe community service? That would at least force him to do something.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
Its a law that you have to be fined when property damages are there.It doesnt matter how much the defendent is worth. It might have to do with the people whos property has been damaged or lost alltogether and thier insurance companies.
Jessiebanana Jessiebanana 8 years
While I'm all for punishing crimes, especially ones that are so destructive to nature and risk the lives and use the time of civil servants, I have to wonder why he did it? Is he just homeless or is he homeless and insane. I also wonder what we believe to gain by issuing such a grand standing sentence. In reality the sentence is pretty weak. If the man was vindictive and aggressive wouldn't it have been better to sentence him to more time? I'm going to assume there were sentence limits. I don't know the man will probably be on disability for life, making this sentence more for show then anything else. I do like the idea that he has to pay $50 a month for life. But come on the man is 50, if he lives until a hundred and started paying today it would only come out to $30,000. Couldn't the judge have said $50,000 and called it a day.
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