By Paris Achen
Columbian Staff Reporter

Monday, January 7, 2013

A 41-year-old Vancouver man was sentenced in Clark County Superior Court today to 17 months in prison for setting fire to his apartment and then, a room at the Hazel Dell Quality Inn within three days in late September.

Through a Spanish-language interpreter, Angel Torres-Reyna pleaded guilty today to two counts of second-degree arson and one count of third-degree assault in exchange for reduced charges. He was originally charged with two counts of first-degree arson and one count of third-degree assault. A first-degree arson conviction would have involved a longer prison sentence.

The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office made the plea agreement because prosecutors were uncertain they would prevail, had the two arson cases been tried separately, said Deputy Prosecutor Anna Klein. A plea agreement also saves the expense of a trial, or possibly two, in this case.

“It was a tactical move, and the sentence was not much less than he would have gotten in trial,” Klein said.

Seventeen months is the maximum sentence for second-degree arson.

A first-degree arson conviction would be about nine to 17 months longer than that, Klein said.

Torres-Reyna also will be required to pay $322,312 in restitution, though many convicts are unable to pay.

When Judge Scott Collier asked him if he would like to say anything before sentencing, he declined through his interpreter.

“What I’d like to hear from you is the potential harm, not just property damage, you caused,” Collier said. “When you set fire to the hotel, there were people in the hotel, firefighters. It puts them at serious risk.”

“I’m going to accept the plea agreement but a little bit begrudgingly,” he said.

Torres-Reyna set fire to his apartment Sept. 27 at Willowbrook Apartments on Northeast 51st Street in the Truman neighborhood. Two days later, he set fire to the hotel room, provided to him by the American Red Cross, at 7001 N.E. Highway 99, then climbed onto the roof of the hotel and refused to come down when responding firefighters attempted to rescue him. He kicked down a rescue ladder and caused a firefighter to tumble to the ground, prompting the third-degree assault charge. The ladder struck a vehicle and broke out its window. From his perch on the roof, he kept police at bay for four hours.

Several hotel lodgers, who had been displaced by the apartment fire, were evacuated during the hotel fire and subsequent standoff.

Initially, police had expressed concerns that Torres-Reyna might be mentally ill. However, he was found competent Nov. 30 to stand trial after a mental health evaluation.

He also is under an immigration hold placed by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. It’s unclear whether he’ll serve out his sentence before being deported.

Man gets 17 months for apartment, Quality Inn fires | The Columbian