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Former Babbitt Fire Chief Sentenced For Setting Fires

Updated: 04/10/2014 10:47 PM
Created: 04/10/2014 4:17 PM WDIO.com
By: Laurie Stribling
lstribling@wdio.com

The former Fire Chief of Babbitt will spend the next five years in prison. Ryan Scharber was sentenced Thursday in Federal Court after he admitted to setting several fires.

Five years in prison is the mandatory minimum for these types of crimes in Federal Court. Scharber's Defense Attorney Joe Tamburino said if Scharber was in State Court he would only be sentenced to two years.

"In this case, Mr. Scharber didn't do anything to hurt anyone," Tamburino said. "He burned some fires less than three acres and he attempted at one point to burn a small structure, but he didn't and there was no one in the structure."

During the sentencing, Tamburino argued for a lesser sentence and said Scharber didn't commit the crimes with malice.

"People have problems and sometimes they do stupid, ill-considered acts, but they're still good people," Tamburino said.

U.S. Assistant Attorney Andrew Dunne agreed that Scharber is not a bad person.

"He's a good man," Dunne said. "He's a decent man, but he made some awfully bad choices."

Dunne said as fire chief, Scharber should be held to a higher standard. He also said he betrayed the community's trust.

Dunne also said between 2010 and 2012 there were 39 suspicious fires in the Babbitt area. He said since this news broke, there has been zero.

Scharber also spoke during the sentencing.

"I'm in no way a pyromaniac," Scharber said.

Scharber said mental health issues could be to blame for his actions. He also said he spent the last two years trying to make things right with the community.

Scharber's sentence includes paying $27,819 in restitution, 100 hours of community service and not working on fire departments while on supervised release.

Scharber was ordered to turn himself in on June 2. His attorney has said they plan to appeal.

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Freeze Warning

MI AREAS AFFECTED: Baraga; Dickinson; Gogebic; Iron; Ontonagon; Southern Houghton
Expires: 9/18/2014 10:00 AM

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