Man gets 17 months for apartment, Quality Inn fires

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

Updated: January 7, 2013, 8:31 PM

 
photoAngel M. Torres-Reyna, 41, was sentenced to 17 months in prison for setting fire to his apartment and, later, a hotel room.

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A 41-year-old Vancouver man was sentenced Monday in Clark County Superior Court to 17 months’ prison for setting fire first to his apartment and, three days later, to his room at the Hazel Dell Quality Inn.

Through a Spanish-language interpreter, Angel Torres-Reyna pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of second-degree arson and one count of third-degree assault in exchange for reduced charges. He was originally charged with two counts of first-degree arson and one count of third-degree assault. A first-degree arson conviction would have involved a longer prison sentence.

The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office made the plea agreement because prosecutors were uncertain they would prevail had the two arson cases been tried separately, said Deputy Prosecutor Anna Klein. A plea agreement also saves the expense of a trial, or possibly two, in this case.

“It was a tactical move, and the sentence was not much less than he would have gotten in trial,” Klein said.

Seventeen months in prison is the maximum sentence for second-degree arson; a first-degree arson conviction would have added about nine to 17 months, Klein said.

Torres-Reyna also will be ordered to pay $322,312 in restitution, though many convicts are unable to pay.

When Judge Scott Collier asked Torres-Reyna if he would like to say anything before sentencing, he declined through his interpreter.

“What I’d like to hear from you is the potential harm, not just property damage, you caused,” Collier said. “When you set fire to the hotel, there were people in the hotel, firefighters. It puts them at serious risk.”

“I’m going to accept the plea agreement but a little bit begrudgingly,” the judge said.

Torres-Reyna set fire Sept. 27 to his apartment at Willowbrook Apartments on Northeast 51st Street in the Truman neighborhood. Two days later, he set fire to the hotel room, provided to him by the American Red Cross, at 7001 N.E. Highway 99. He climbed onto the hotel roof and refused to come down when firefighters tried to rescue him.

He kicked a rescue ladder and caused a firefighter to tumble to the ground, prompting the third-degree assault charge. The ladder struck a vehicle and broke out its window. From his perch, Torres-Reyna kept police at bay for four hours.

Several other hotel guests, also displaced by the Willowbrook Apartments fire, were evacuated during the hotel fire and subsequent standoff.

Initially, police expressed concerns that Torres-Reyna might be mentally ill. He received a mental health evaluation and was found competent Nov. 30 to stand trial.

He is under an immigration hold placed by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. It’s unclear whether he’ll serve out his sentence before being deported.


Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://twitter.com/Col_Courts; http://facebook.com/ColTrends; paris.achen@columbian.com.