A Ladysmith man was sentenced to six months in jail after entering no contest pleas to two felony arson counts in Rusk County Circuit Court.
After entering no contest pleas to two felony counts of arson of property other than a building, Danny D. Jackson, 60, was sentenced to six months and three years probation in the Rusk County Jail on Friday, Sept. 4 in Rusk County Circuit Court.
The Department of Corrections recommendations, based on the pre-sentence investigation, were for Jackson to serve six months in jail with three years probation.
In addition, Jackson was granted Huber for work, family care and for treatment. He must maintain absolute sobriety, have no contact with the victims or their family or residence, submit a DNA sample and pay the surcharge and complete any programming recommended by the Department of Corrections.
On Sept. 4 Jackson was also sentenced to 60 days in the Rusk County Jail on a third offense OWI and will be required to pay a fine of $1,744, install an interlock ignition device in any car he drives, take an alcohol or other drug abuse assessment, maintain absolute sobriety and pay $23.50 in restitution. Jackson’s driving privileges are also revoked for a period of 24 months.
The Rusk County Circuit Court found Jackson of intentionally setting fire to four vehicles by way of using an accelerant in the evening hours of May 27, 2019 and June 2, 2019. The vehicles were owned by Harvey Marten, of Ladysmith.
Following the incident, officers responded to Jackson’s residence and noticed his vehicle was parked two houses north of his Ladysmith residence. Neighbors told officers they noticed Jackson driving at a high rate of speed, parking in a driveway two houses down the block. The neighbor also reported he did not see Jackson walk to his home and felt that Jackson could have walked through the backyard.
While speaking with another neighbor, officers noticed a red gas can in her backyard. When she returned home at 7:30 p.m. the can had not been there, according to the criminal complaint. As the officers attempted to make contact with Jackson they saw his vehicle pull out of the driveway without headlights and then pull into his own driveway.
Jackson was arrested for OWI third offense, after he behaved in an extremely belligerent and vulgar manner toward law enforcement. While transporting Jackson to Marshfield Medical Center – Ladysmith for a blood draw, the officer could smell gasoline coming from Jackson. At the time of the incident, Jackson’s blood alcohol content was .17.
During the sentencing hearing on Sept. 4, the victim Martin addressed the court and recalled collapsing to the ground when hearing of the damage due to Jackson setting fire to the vehicles. Marten said he believed Jackson also had set fire to his garage, however the Ladysmith Fire Department determined the cause had been electrical.
Marten told the court Jackson should be sentenced to nine years in prison, the maximum for three counts of arson. The court reminded Marten that Jackson was being sentenced on two counts of arson.
Marten recalled flashbacks, nightmares and ongoing fears that Jackson will return to set fire to more of his property. Marten requested $17,845.08 in restitution for property destroyed in the fires.
Rusk County Assistant District Attorney Les Liptak said he had previously agreed to follow the Department of Corrections recommendations for sentencing Jackson, but that it doesn’t lessen the seriousness of the felony arson charges.
Arson is inherently dangerous, said Liptak, because it could have taken a life. When considering Jackson’s character, Liptak said Jackson denies responsibility.
Liptak argued for six months in jail with three years probation.
Defense Attorney Stephanie Thomas said Jackson has proven he can do well on probation and that Jackson’s rehabilitation needs could be managed safely in the community.
Jackson’s character has remained consistent throughout the case, argued Thomas, adding that he’s been focused on his children and has the ability to be focused on the well being of other people.
Thomas argued that the purpose and need of jail time is for punishment, not rehabilitation, and said she does not see jail time as a way to improve Jackson. Jail would interrupt the impact of rehabilitation for Jackson, according to Thomas.
Thomas argued for 45 days jail time concurrent to Jackson’s OWI sentencing adding that 45 days punishment says the crime is significant and important.
Jackson addressed the court by saying, “I just want to do it over, to be with my kids. I don’t hold a grudge against anyone.”
Rusk County Circuit Court Judge Steven Anderson asked Jackson why he would have a grudge against anyone when no one burned his garage or cars? Jackson remained focused on his family.
In his sentencing, Anderson said the impact of the fire on the Marten family was serious adding, “they are wage earning people whose family have to likely forgo other things [as a result of the fires].”
While Jackson has focused on his children, he still set fire to his children’s grandparent’s property, said Anderson and acknowledged Jackson never takes responsibility for his actions. “At 60 you need to say ‘I screwed up,’” said Anderson.
Anderson said he was surprised that the Department of Corrections recommended only six months incarceration for what he believes is a fairly significant crime, however said that they must see some benefit for Jackson to remain in the community.
Anderson followed the Department of Corrections recommendations and sentenced Jackson to six months in the Rusk County Jail, three years probation, absolute sobriety, complete all recommended programming and pay $17,845.08 in restitution. Anderson also said, that “45 days is not arson jail time or we risk depreciating the seriousness of the crime.”
After sentencing Marten spoke out against Jackson’s sentence and expressed anger at the unfairness of the court system. As a result Marten was removed from the courtroom and arrested. Marten was ordered to serve 10 days in the Rusk County Jail with the possibility to purge himself by writing a letter of apology to the court.
Thomas requested to hold the restitution open for 30 days to review the amount.
Jackson is scheduled for a status hearing where restitution will be reviewed on Oct. 5 in Rusk County Circuit Court.