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Federal judge rips serial arsonist at sentencing

 (The Spokesman-Review)
(The Spokesman-Review)

A serial arsonist’s criminal past earned the wrath today of a federal judge who sentenced the man to 10 years in prison.

Anthony W. Sotin, 42, previously agreed to accept responsibility for setting his own car on fire on Jan. 12 and torching a commercial building at 13412 E. Nora Ave. on Feb. 9. The commercial building was adjacent to an occupied apartment complex. A third charge of wire fraud was dismissed.

But U.S. District Judge Justin Quackenbush clearly was reluctant to accept the terms of the agreement, noting that Sotin’s first criminal conviction came at age 14.

“I have been on the federal bench from Houston, to Las Vegas to San Francisco and thousands of cases in my home district,” he said. “I don’t know that I have ever seen as an egregious criminal history as with you. A rational judge could conclude that Mr. Sotin should be locked up for the rest of his life to protect others.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Durkin indicated in court that prosecutors accepted the plea agreement without full knowledge of Sotin’s criminal history. Despite that, they believed the plea agreement should stand.

Kailey Moran, of the Federal Defenders of Eastern Washington and Idaho, noted that Sotin has accepted responsibility and has agreed to pay more than $171,000 in restitution.

“It’s almost as though Mr. Sotin is two people,” Moran told the judge. “There is this loving father who graduated college … and then there’s this 50-some page document that shows otherwise.”

The judge indicated that Sotin, who was convicted of arson in 1988 under a plea that dismissed charges of several other arsons, remains under investigation for other unsolved, suspicious fires.

“I have reservations about whether a sentence of 10 years is appropriate. I have concluded with some reluctance that I will follow this agreement,” Quackenbush said.

As part of the agreement, the judge told Sotin that he would be barred from filing any “clearly frivilous” lawsuits, following previous suits Sotin filed against prosecutors, judges, victims and his own attorneys.

Sotin, who hung his head during most of the proceeding, apologized to the judge and promised better behavior.

“I’m guilty of these crimes,” he said with difficulty. “I can’t believe my life turned this direction. I thought I was on the path to better things.”

Quackenbush was unmoved.

“I hope you have reached the age, maturity and manhood to realize that this conduct will not be tolerated,” he said. “It’s hard for me to understand how you profess to be a Christian and yet go out and do the things you did in this case — burn people’s property and put firefighters at risk.”