Former firefighter gets 24 months for burning bridge in Mayerthorpe
Published Friday, July 7, 2017 9:23AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, July 7, 2017 9:29AM EDT
Lawson Schalm will serve time in jail after admitting to setting several fires in Mayerthorpe, Alta., one of which destroyed Canada’s longest standing wood trestle bridge.
The judge sentenced Schalm to 24 months in jail and three years probation Thursday.
Judge Charles Gardner told the court Schalm “was clearly reckless regarding the consequences of his actions,” but he also took into account Schalm’s significant cognitive deficit.
“It affects his judgment,” said defence lawyer Ed O’Neill. “He’s operating in the lowest percentile in the intelligent quotient.”
According to the agreed statement of facts, Schalm was a volunteer firefighter when he used a lighter to set 18 grass fires during a 12-day period in April 2016.
The now-20-year-old was an active firefighter at five of the fires and was a bystander at another four before he became a suspect, according to Mayerthorpe Fire Chief Randy Schroeder.
Tips from the public led RCMP to arrest and charge Schalm in May 2016. In March, he pleaded guilty to four counts of arson.
“It’s been tough,” said father, Albert Schalm. “He cried all the way here.”
His father told reporters that Schalm, who graduated from high school last week, is focused on moving forward.
“He’s a good kid, always has been a good kid, I’m very very proud of him. He just made some bad choices and now he’ll have to pay the price for it,” Albert Schalm said.
The Crown had been asking for a five-year sentence and could still appeal.
“The Crown will go back and take some time and review the decision,” said Crown prosecutor Dallas Spoko. “We’ll look at whether overall that’s a fit and proper sentence,” he added.
“I thought it was a very humane sentence by a very respected and fair minded judge,” said O’Neill.
Schalm will serve his sentence in a provincial jail.
He will also have to pay more than $8,000 in restitution.
CN didn’t ask for any repayment for the bridge, which cost them more than $7 million to rebuild.
With files from CTV Edmonton’s Susan Amerongen