Last teen admits to charges in school arson case

2010-05-25T11:19:00Z Last teen admits to charges in school arson caseGREG TUTTLE Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
May 25, 2010 11:19 am  • 

The last of four teenagers involved in the arson fire that razed Huntley Project High School admitted to felony charges Tuesday in District Court.

Michael Victoria III, 18, appeared before Judge Russell Fagg and pleaded guilty to negligent arson, burglary and criminal mischief. At the hearing, Victoria admitted that he broke into the school with three other teenagers on Sept. 18, 2008, damaged property inside the building and spread chemicals in a classroom that were used to set the blaze.

Victoria did not admit to starting the fire that quickly spread through the building and destroyed the school, causing an estimated loss of $9 million.

Victoria entered the guilty pleas as part of an agreement with prosecutors that calls for him to receive a total sentence of 16 years with the state Department of Corrections, with all but three years suspended. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled later.

Victoria was initially charged with arson and two counts of burglary, but those charges were amended earlier this month as part of the plea agreement. The agreement says prosecutors will recommend that Victoria receive a sentence of 10 years to the state Department of Corrections, with seven years suspended, for the negligent arson charge, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

Prosecutors will recommend Victoria receive a concurrent 10-year suspended sentence for the burglary, and a consecutive six-year suspended sentence for criminal mischief.

Three other teens previously admitted to taking part in the break-in and fire at the school. Gregory Three Fingers, who was 19 at the time of the fire, was sentenced in September to 16 years in state custody, with all but three years suspended.

Three Fingers pleaded guilty to felony arson by accountability and burglary. When he admitted to the charges, Three Fingers said he helped spread the chemicals that were used to ignite the fire, but he also denied being the person who set the chemicals on fire.

Katie Jo Parshall and Charles McCade were 14 at the time of the crimes. They were charged in Youth Court and sentenced as juveniles after admitting to burglary charges. McCade received a two-year suspended sentence.

Parshall received a one-year suspended sentence, but she was recently sent to a state youth detention facility after admitting to violating conditions of her suspended sentence.

All three teens previously sentence were ordered to make restitution payments.

Victoria's case was delayed while his court-appointed attorneys appealed a decision by Fagg to keep the case in District Court rather than transfer it to Youth Court. The Supreme Court rejected the appeal, and Victoria's trial was set to begin Monday.

After admitting to the felony charges, Victoria told the judge he is working at a Billings restaurant and attending classes at a local alternative school program

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