The Richmond Register

Local News

February 10, 2013

Former student sentenced in EKU dorm fire incident

Attorney questions restitution amount

RICHMOND — A former Eastern Kentucky University student who pleaded guilty to amended charges in a 2011 dormitory fire incident was sentenced Thursday, but the amount of restitution he owes the school is still at question.

Samuel McFarland, 20, Williamsburg, pleaded guilty in December to first-degree criminal mischief, first-degree wanton endangerment and second-degree possession of a controlled substance (amphetamine).

McFarland originally was accused of setting fire to two hallway bulletin boards in the dorm, and he was charged with first-degree arson, which carries a sentence of 20 to 50 years or life in prison.

At the earlier hearing in which he pleaded guilty to the amended charges, McFarland said sprinklers were going off in his Commonwealth Hall room on Oct. 14, 2011, and he hit them with a broom in an attempt to disable them. He also said he used scissors to cut the wires in the sprinklers.

Judge Jean C. Logue sentenced McFarland to the recommended three years on each charge, plus a concurrent sentence of 12 months on the drug-possession charge. The entire sentence was diverted for five years if McFarland follows terms of the plea deal.

Those include paying a “reasonable” restitution to EKU for damage to the dorm, undergoing alcohol and drug testing, getting both drug and alcohol and mental health evaluations, complying with treatment recommendations and having no further violations of law.

If McFarland fails to follow terms of the agreement, he will have to serve his sentence in prison.

The plea deal was reached during a felony mediation process in which EKU officials had input in determining the appropriate punishment.

At an earlier hearing, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jennifer Smith said the university’s estimates for damage to the dorm, which was mostly caused by water from the sprinklers, was $40,000.

McFarland’s attorney asked for more information about how EKU came up with that amount. He added that $40,000 may be 100 percent accurate, but he just wanted confirmation.

A restitution hearing, at which an university official will be called to testify, was set for 9 a.m. March 22.

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