Trials & Litigation

Judge orders teen to pay nearly $37M in restitution for starting wildfire

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An Oregon judge has ordered a teen to pay $36.6 million in restitution for tossing fireworks in the Eagle Creek Canyon last September and sparking a wildfire that spread to more than 48,000 acres.

Judge John Olson ruled in an opinion released Monday, report the Oregonian, the Associated Press, the Washington Post and KOIN 5. The teen’s parents are not responsible for paying.

The youth, from Vancouver, Washington, was 15 at the time of the incident. He pleaded guilty in February to reckless burning of property, depositing burning material on forest land, second-degree criminal mischief and reckless endangerment.

He was sentenced in February to five years probation and 1,920 hours of community service. He was also ordered to write more than 150 apology letters.

Olson said the award is constitutional because it does not exceed the financial damages caused by the fire. The youth’s lawyer had contended the high amount was cruel and unusual punishment.

The local juvenile department will develop a payment plan. State law permits payments to end after 10 years if a juvenile defendant successfully completes probation.

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