(6/28/2011 photo courtesy Kathryn)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
One of our periodic peeks into various court files to check on ongoing cases has just yielded news: There’s been a plea bargain in last June’s arson/domestic violence case in Gatewood. It happened three weeks ago, but we just spotted it now, and it does not appear anyone else has reported this yet. The fire happened on June 28th; the only person hurt was the defendant and home co-owner, 40-year-old John C. Siegel, whose injuries were later described as self-inflicted. He was found sitting outside the home as it burned.
The case drew extra citywide attention because Siegel had just gotten out of jail a month earlier after a plea bargain in a domestic-violence case that also yielded a charge of threatening a judge (as reported by Seattle Weekly). He is a lawyer and has been representing himself in this case, as he did in that one; the list of files in the four-month-old arson case is longer than many lists from cases that have been going on for years, and full of documents he wrote by hand while in jail (where he’s been since the fire). Here’s what we found out about Siegel’s plea bargain:
Siegel has entered what is called an “Alford plea,” in which the defendant says, basically, I’m not saying I’m guilty, but I’m saying the evidence would probably lead a judge or jury to find me guilty. He has entered that plea to the arson charge – which prosecutors reduced to second-degree arson/domestic violence – as well as three charges of violating a court order/domestic violence (regarding his estranged wife, who also owned the house he set on fire, but was not home at the time).
As part of the plea bargain, the state will recommend a 17-month sentence for the arson charge, and 20 months for the court-order-violation charges. Court documents also say that any residual time from the previous domestic-violence/judge-threat case would be served concurrently with that new term. Siegel would also pay restitution, to be determined, for the fire damage, which investigators estimated at more than $100,000. (It’s not clear what resources he would have for handling that, since he was reported to be staying at the house before the fire because he had been otherwise homeless.)
Siegel remains in jail pending his sentencing before King County Superior Court Judge Beth Andrus, set for December 9th.
ADDED 1:29 PM: We had a message out to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to confirm a few things from the documents. One thing worth noting, from that exchange: According to KCPAO spokesperson Dan Donohoe, the 17- and 20-month sentences would be concurrent, for a total sentence of 20 months, if the recommendations are followed by the judge.