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pinky burns (trailhead).
The Anniston Star
Three charged in Pinky Burns arson plead guilty
Posted: Friday, October 29, 2010 1:28 pm
Star Staff Writer
Two Anniston residents and a Lineville man have pleaded guilty to felony arson for using “Molotov cocktails” to burn down the historic Pinky Burns Cabin in the Talladega National Forest, federal court records show.
Grover Newell and Jennifer Megan Brooks, the 20-year-old Anniston residents, and Lineville native Jody Kyle Maples, 21, accepted plea agreements offered to them Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Birmingham, office spokeswoman Peggy Sanford said.
In September, a federal grand jury in Birmingham indicted Newell, Brooks and Maples on the felony charges.
Court records show the grand jury indicted Newell, Brooks and Maples on charges of burning down the cabin after hearing witness testimony that prosecutors brought forth as evidence.
Witnesses who lived near the cabin – named for a locally famous trapper, hunter and storyteller who lived there for decades before his death in 1999 – said they saw the defendants leaving the area of the cabin after it caught fire March 10, 2009, according to the plea agreement.
Soon after, Calhoun County deputies stopped a vehicle that met the description witnesses had provided and found the defendants in the car, along with components used to make incendiary devices known as “Molotov cocktails,” including Coleman fuel, rags, bottles and butane lighters.
Newell, Brooks and Maples all arrested charged that day with arson and indicted on those same charges two months ago, court records show.
But the guilty pleas signed by the three this week were not for the felony indictment charges, Sanford said.
Instead, during plea negotiations early this week, prosecutors agreed to enter a so-called “information” charge of “depredation of government property against the United States” in place of the indictment charge of arson.
An information charge is the equivalent of the indictment charge, Sanford said, as both are felony arson crimes.
The difference is the sentences that the two charges carry, Sanford and Bill Barnett, Maples’ defense attorney said.
The indictment charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison.
The information charge does not carry that mandatory minimum; instead, it allows for a 10-year maximum sentence.
By pleading guilty to the information charge, Newell, Brooks and Maples avoid spending five mandatory years in prison, Barnett said.
“You’ve just got three young people who’ve acted totally differently than they have here-forth, with no criminal records until now,” Barnett said. “Five years in prison a heavy sentence for doing something truly stupid.”
Barnett said that he and the defense lawyers for Newell and Brooks were prepared to take their defendants’ case to a federal jury trial Monday if prosecutors had not agreed to enter the information charge.
Prosecutors have recommended that federal Judge Inge P. Johnson award the defendants “an appropriate reduction in offense level for [their] acceptances of responsibility.”
Barnett said the sentencing hearing for Newell, Brooks and Maples, court records is set for Feb. 15.
BURNS CABIN / USFS
Arsonists Sentenced to Prison for Starting Wildfire in the Talladega National Forest
Release Date: Mar 31, 2011
(Heflin, AL) March 31, 2011---
U.S. Forest Service officials credit local citizens for helping them solve a recent arson case. Three arsonists from Clay and Calhoun counties pleaded guilty and were sentenced to prison, community service and thousands in restitution for starting a wildfire that burned the historical Pink E. Burns cabin located in the Talladega National Forest, Shoal Creek District.
Jennifer M. Brooks, 20, was sentenced to 12 months and a day in prison.
Grover S. Newell, 20, and Jody K. Maples, 22, received 21 months in prison.
All three will have 36 months of probation and 300 hours of community service on the U.S. Forest Service’s Shoal Creek District in Heflin, Ala.
They were ordered to pay approximately $4,800 in restitution for their role in the arson.
According to Forest Service District Ranger Karen McKenzie, this serves as a reminder that arson is very serious and it’s against the law. “Wildfires are a threat to public lands and the community,” said McKenzie.
On March 4, Forest Service law enforcement responded to another incident at the Pink E. Burns homestead where a barn was destroyed by fire and lumber was stolen from an existing corn crib. “We will continue to work together with local authorities and citizens to keep a watchful eye on suspicious arson activities,” said McKenzie. Arson can be reported on the Alabama Forestry Commission’s toll free hotline at 1-800-222-2927. Information provided is confidential and you will remain anonymous.
Ranger McKenzie stated that the Pink E. Burn arson case was unfortunate for a number of reasons. “The community lost a wonderful historical gem and the U.S. Forest Service lost the opportunity to submit this landmark to the National Historic Register,” said McKenzie.
“The individuals have to pay a very high price for a very bad decision on their part that led to the destruction of Pink E. Burns cabin.”
Pink Edward Burns historical log cabin was located in Rabbittown, Alabama in Calhoun County. It was constructed as a one room school.
On March 10, 2009, White Plains and Quad Cities Fire Departments were the first responders on the scene, but were unable to save the historical structure built in the late 1800’s. The cabin was a popular trailhead for hikers enjoying the Dugger Mountain Wilderness.