Judge: Sentence in firefighter's death stands


CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Kanawha County judge would not reconsider a six-year sentence for a man convicted last year of starting a fire near the Steven Wayne Smith Memorial Bridge, indirectly causing the death of a Davis Creek firefighter who fell from the bridge while trying to locate the blaze.Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman said Tuesday the sentence he originally levied against Charles Darren Roberts -- consecutive prison terms on charges of arson and involuntary manslaughter in the death of Joey King -- sent the "appropriate message" and declined a motion from Roberts' lawyers to essentially shave time from his punishment.In December 2011, Roberts ignited a cardboard box to catch a tire on fire, incidentally igniting 160 railroad ties beside the bridge. King was looking for the tire when he fell off the bridge, police said at the time.A grand jury indicted Roberts on murder charges. He eventually agreed to plead guilty to second- and third-degree arson and involuntary manslaughter, a misdemeanor.
Roberts' lawyer, John Carr, said his client has agreed to enter an intense in-house faith-based drug-treatment program when he gets out of prison.Prosecutors opposed Tuesday's motion, pointing out that Roberts will be eligible for parole in a year and three months anyway. With the requested reduction, he would have been eligible in nine months."It is not a long sentence," Kanawha Assistant Prosecutor Dan Holstein said.Reach Zac Taylor at zachary.taylor@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.
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