A 17-year-old male who admitted to causing the Cinema Court Fire catastrophe in June was sentenced in court to 30 days in a detention facility, according to victims of the fire who were present in the 7th District Juvenile Court on Dec. 17.
The juvenile had entered a guilty plea to causing a catastrophe, a Class A misdemeanor, on Oct. 15. The June 12 Cinema Court Fire burned nine homes and caused an estimated $1.3 million in damages to residences near Pack Creek in the area of La Sal Avenue and Mill Creek Drive. In the leadup to the sentencing hearing, fire victims said they sat down with the juvenile to discuss the case together at a scheduled mediation on Dec. 6.
Five homeowners and fire victims emerged first from the district courtroom on Monday, Dec. 17, at approximately 3 p.m. following the adjournment of the sentencing hearing.
Rick Carrigan is among those who lost his home in the fire. He said that he had been working on his new house on Monday to have it move-in ready just four days before Christmas, but said he sat his tools aside so that he could be present to watch the sentencing hearing.
“I just figured that at this point it was in the judge’s hands because everything we could have said, we said in mediation,” Carrigan said outside the courtroom.
Bill and Ivy Partridge, along with their children Nicole and Matt, came out of the courtroom with Carrigan. They convened downstairs with Arthur Adair, the deputy probation officer and victim coordinator for the juvenile court. Following the meeting, Ivy Partridge said her family was surprised during the court hearing to learn that allegedly the juvenile has a history with a juvenile court in another county, which she said was not disclosed during mediation, and he allegedly now has two new cases filed against him since the start of the Cinema Court Fire proceedings.
“We were hoping he would straighten out because he acted like he really wanted to,” Ivy Partridge said. “But he’s gotten in trouble since. … The judge handed down that he gets 30 days in juvenile detention.”
“I was surprised to see him taken away immediately,” Carrigan said. “I didn’t see a handcuffing, I just saw that the bailiff was going to remove him and that there was some shock. I don’t think anyone in that courtroom, except maybe the judge, expected that. It just comes down to, if you do harm, you’re going to have to pay the consequences,” Carrigan said.
“He didn’t look like he was expecting to go into custody today,” Nicole Partridge said.
Those who watched the courtroom proceedings said the judge did not make a determination on an order for restitution. Two of the people whose property had been damaged said they had recently sent in updated information, which they said could have delayed the restitution order from being finalized at sentencing.
“Restitution will be taken care of later,” Nicole Partridge said. “Also, he has to go back to school and he has to have drug testing for probation. But all of his court-ordered stuff, he hasn’t been following through with the court orders.”
“He has been court-ordered for schooling already and he hasn’t done it,” Ivy Partridge said. “He’s been court-ordered for drug testing, and he hasn’t done any of it. And they’ve actually made it now where it’s his mother’s responsibility. The judge did something where she’s actually now responsible to make sure he does it.”
“If he doesn’t follow through, then she gets in trouble,” Nicole Partridge added.
Nicole and Ivy Partridge said they would like for the juvenile to “turn his life around.”
“I believe that he can do better if he chooses to,” Carrigan added.
Carrigan turned attention toward the recent legislative changes imposed on juvenile sentencing.
“We know the legal system has changed so that juvenile offenders are under a whole different set of rules,” Carrigan said. “It sounds like the judge was as frustrated as anybody in the case, but I feel like she did as fair of treatment to us as she could have.”
When the hearing was adjourned, the juvenile’s mother left the courtroom in tears.
“I really hope [the juvenile] gets his life together. I saw the pain that his mom was in when she left [the courtroom], and I know that there’s nothing I could say to make her feel good, but [the juvenile] has to take accountability for his own actions and the people he’s harmed,” Carrigan said.
“The court process has been drug-out a little bit, so we were all ready to have it just be over,” Nicole Partridge said.
Cinema Court Fire victims speak out following hearing
“I was surprised to see him taken away immediately.”