Friday, July 27, 2007

Jail time, fine for Houdini collection arsonist

The man convicted of burning a priceless collection of Harry Houdini memorabilia might have to conjure up $100,000 as part of his sentence.

Jarrod Frederick pleaded guilty to the arson charge Wednesday and said he would attempt to pay the money as part of his proposed three-year prison sentence.

Frederick is accused of destroying Dr. Randall Wolf’s collection of the magician’s memorabilia when he broke into an Indian Hill home on Dec. 30 and set a fire that caused more than $1 million damage.

Prosecutors said Frederick, who once did lawn work in Indian Hill and knew the area, was looking for an out-of-the-way place to smoke crack cocaine.

He went into the Park Road house, prosecutors said, and set the fire while attempting to light his crack pipe.

The proposed sentence would give Frederick a choice of serving three years and attempting to pay $100,000, or serving five years and paying none.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Dennis Helmick became irritated with Frederick when he asked a question about paying the money.

“I have absolutely no sympathy for you,” Helmick said. “I’m asking you to pay 10 cents on the dollar. If you don’t want to, OK, you’ll go to the penitentiary. You were the one who caused the loss.”

The judge will decide whether to accept the proposed sentence Aug. 21. If he does, Frederick would be expected to begin making payments for the first five years after his release from prison.

His attorney, Hal Arenstein, said the hope is Frederick will be able to pay something, although it’s unlikely he will be able to repay anything close to $100,000.

If he makes an effort, Arenstein said, he should be able to avoid going back to prison.

Helmick said insurance companies already have paid $500,000 to cover property lost in the fire and would likely pay much more.

“Do you want to tell me … why you have a right to screw somebody else’s life up?” the judge asked.

“I have no right,” Frederick answered.

“You seem to be doing it,” Helmick said. “Every time you decide to use crack, it was a conscious decision. Nobody held a gun to your head.”

by Dan Horn
Cincinnati.com The Enquirer

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