Fire chiefs protest leniency as Superior Court judge sentences father and stepson in arson spree

BROCKTON — As more than a dozen fire chiefs and firefighters looked on with disapproval, a Middleborough man and his stepson were sentenced today to serve a maximum of three years in state prison and 2½ years, respectively, for their roles in an arson spree that once terrorized Southeastern Massachusetts.

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Brockton- 02/87/14- At Brockton Superior Court, fire chiefs from Southeastern Mass. were present in court to show their outrage over the sentencing of two arsonist in a string of fires. Judge Carol Ball sentenced Mark Sargent(left) and his stepson Jeannarie Louis to a light sentence in prison. Boston Globe staff photo by John Tlumacki (metro)
Fire chiefs attended the hearing to show their displeasure with the sentences handed down to the two men. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
The Boston Globe

Mark W. Sargent, 46, and Jeanmarie Louis, 24, were sentenced in Plymouth Superior Court by Judge Carol Ball.

The firefighters were protesting what they deemed lax punishment for the arson spree, which injured at least six firefighters in Plymouth, Bristol, Norfolk, and Barnstable counties.

Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz’s office had asked for a sentence of up to 12 years in prison for Sargent for arson fires at an unoccupied Scituate vacation home, six boats in a Marshfield marina, and a West Bridgewater building that was under construction, in late 2012 and early 2013.

Prosecutors also asked that Louis, who was only charged in connection with the West Bridgewater fire, be sentenced to four to six years.

The men were arrested following an intensive investigation by State Police assigned to State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan’s office, which took the lead in tracking down suspects in about 30 suspicious fires at commercial or unoccupied structures in Southeastern Massachusetts. Fourteen of the fires, including the three that Sargent and Louis pleaded guilty to, occurred in Plymouth County, according to a Cruz spokeswoman.

Authorities are still investigating the unsolved fires, a spokeswoman for Coan said earlier this week. Coan also criticized the sentence in a statement he issued earlier this week.

“Arson is not a victimless crime, and a series of arsons creates an understandable fear that robs people of feeling secure in their own homes, where they should feel safest,” he said in a statement Tuesday. “Arson fires take a toll on our firefighters and are the type of fires that cause the most firefighter injuries. Arson fires tear at the very fabric of a community.”