BROCKTON — A Middleborough man who was allegedly linked to a wave of arson fires that terrorized Southeastern Massachusetts will likely plead guilty Friday in several of the blazes, his defense attorney said today.
The plea means that Mark Sargent, 46, would be sentenced to as much as three years in prison. The sentence quickly drew criticism from the state fire marshal, whose office investigated the case.
“I am outraged at the plea deal offered,” State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan said in a statement. “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 burdening public safety resources, affecting tax revenues, jobs and creating blight.”
Sargent and his stepson, Jeanmarie Louis, 24, were arrested after an intensive probe into about 30 arson fires that broke out in the region from fall 2012 until early 2013. The two men are facing charges in Plymouth County for three of 14 fires that occurred there, while the other 11 remain under investigation.
Plymouth County prosecutors today urged Plymouth Superior Court Judge Carol Ball to sentence Sargent to a total of 12 years in state prison for fires he allegedly started in an unoccupied Scituate vacation home, a Marshfield marina, and a West Bridgewater building that was under construction.
The arson spree also hit buildings in Barnstable, Plymouth, and Norfolk counties. At least six firefighters suffered minor injuries while battling the blazes, officials have said.
Defense attorneys for the two men urged Ball to impose no more than a two-year sentence for Sargent and no more than a one-year sentence for Louis.
After hearing sentencing arguments from both sides, Ball said from the bench that she would impose a sentence of up to three years on Sargent, followed by probation once he is released from custody.
Following the hearing, Sargent’s defense attorney, Edward H. Sharkansky, said his client would likely plead guilty Friday when Ball takes up the case again. The court process was rescheduled to that day to allow an arson victim to be in court, where they plan to deliver a victim impact statement, officials said.
Judge Ball said Louis — who is charged only with participating in the West Bridgewater arson — would face a 2½-year sentence with one year to serve. Louis would also be given credit for time served awaiting trial since his arrest last January, meaning he could be released soon.
His attorney, Jennifer Sunderland, said she was not sure what step her client would take on Friday.
The Boston Globe reported last year that the two men were arrested following an intensive investigation by State Police assigned to Coan’s office, which took the lead in tracking down the alleged serial arsonists who targeted commercial or unoccupied structures. The scores of vacant and abandoned buildings set ablaze included houses, a barn, a restaurant, and a boat.
Coan said he concurred with the district attorney’s recommendations for “significant jail time.”
“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,” Coan said in the statement.
Coan also said the fires in the other counties remain under investigation and additional charges might be forthcoming in those cases.